It can prompt people to ensure they take a break from work - and it will need to, with homeworking, the current norm and employees being “always on” thanks to increased access to our inboxes and messaging. Burnout of employees is a real threat to businesses. The pandemic led to a significant decline in people taking holidays, simply because when working at home we often tend to forget that we need a break. A YouGov study commissioned by ACAS in 2021 found that 39 percent of UK employees took less paid time off work during the pandemic compared to the year before, with employees from SMEs the least likely to use their full holiday entitlement.  

And while many employers now offer hybrid working, with a set number of days in the office and likewise at home, I’m not sure this is the full progress I’d hoped for: I prefer true flexibility that allows for the best options for improving business delivery, and on diversity and inclusion. This is where there is no delineation of either/or but rather an acceptance that you can work at the office as and when you want to--and likewise elsewhere--with the same opportunities to interact, learn and get on with work wherever you are.


Enabling employees

A truly enabling, progressive employer today is one that monitors outputs and makes no judgment as to where you work. Organizations today need a psychological contract, as well as a physical employment contract. We need to redefine what it means to work for an employer, reset expectations, and agree on what a positive working environment means and looks like.

During the pandemic, Yahoo courted controversy by announcing that it would pay employees less because they no longer needed to commute (though more recently still, employees have been told they must work at Yahoo offices). What message does this send to employees about their autonomy at work and their value to an organization? And isn’t it a tax on employees who can’t afford to buy a home, or want to live, close to an office HQ? I also think this sort of decision gravely narrows the selection pool of great candidates and employees that are available to the organization. Give someone the opportunity to avoid a four-hour daily commute and they will take it, but the Company Leadership and HR teams will also need to make sound, rational business decisions because for a lot of organizations having employees working from home all the time will simply not work either.

The line-of-best-fit solution seems to have some flexibility but a core to the business – sometime when project-critical employees can be together to collaborate. We’ll need protocols around who comes in and when, how to set up an office for truly flexible working, and above all, to create a culture and infrastructure that ensures people remain connected. That will involve everything from inductions, training, and mentoring, enabling access to knowledge and information.

Employers and employees are already looking into making sustainable working environment changes. The five-year plan you developed two years ago probably won’t cut it anymore. So we need to rethink what it means to work for an organization. Clearly, we need trust between managers and employees. We also need leaders who commit to the way forward, communicate it across the business, and lead by example.

We need employees to feel valued and purposeful, within a safe environment where they are able to challenge and to continue to have open conversations with their employer. It will likely be harder to create that feeling of psychological safety when employees work remotely, or in a directed hybrid model. We all need to focus on providing the best working environment and on monitoring performance outcomes rather than just monitoring or maintaining the number of employees in the office.

Microsoft Viva Services

About Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva is a workforce connectivity solution that enhances your employee experience and improves workforce wellbeing in a fragmented era. At a time when people are isolated and unsure where to go for help or resources, it can provide actionable insights into workforce productivity, alert managers to the danger of employees over-working, enhance collaboration and provide intuitive knowledge retrieval. Proventeq can provide seamless onboarding into company-wide use of the system through implementation and user training. 

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