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The Return to the Office: The Importance of Clarity & Structure

Creating a coherent, post-covid flexible working policy, might not be quite as straightforward as it sounds and there are numerous factors for Senior Management to grapple with. 

Clearly, some flexible working is popular amongst the majority of staff. As many as 79% who are currently working from home are keen to continue with some level of flexibility. However, can a consistent level of productivity be maintained across various roles when working remotely? 

The answer lies within departmental or individual assessments. But to fairly assess an employee’s individual performance at this stage, you would have needed to install performance monitoring solutions when we first entered the world of remote working.

Woman working from home on her laptop with pen and paper in hand

Before deciding upon our ‘return to the office’ routes or policies, we should first consider:

  • Have companies had adequate time to analyse productivity? 
  • How easy is it for a company to have a blanket policy across all roles? 
  • Can all staff safely return to the office? 
  • Are there plans afoot to downsize?

Couple these variables with the fact that the pandemic is still creating uncertainty; one can empathise with the fact that some businesses have been vague about the road ahead.

 

A clear message to attract the best talent

 

Whilst it may be difficult during the uncertainty to come to a decision, is imperative that a clear message is soon portrayed, particularly when it comes to talent acquisition.

Instinct have experienced first-hand the impact of vagueness around post-covid working patterns - It tends to lead to an unwillingness to accept new roles and the loss of high-quality and sought-after talent.

Even if a recruitment drive is successful, without a clear and concise standpoint on remote working going forward, businesses would be likely to encounter problems along the way.

 

‘This isn’t what I signed up for’

 

If someone is happy with the remote working aspect of their new role but are now being told that they are expected to be back in the office five days per week, they could quickly feel resentful – particularly if that change wasn’t highlighted at the beginning of their employment.

Instinct have found very little resistance from candidates regarding office-based roles but have found plenty of deliberation in the face of vague plans.

There are plenty of potential repercussions in the absence of a clear and future-proofed remote working policy – such as:

  • Lesser ability to attract the best-in-class talent
  • Candidates preferring alternative options (usually competitors) who do have a clear policy
  • Confusion and or animosity amongst co-workers
  • Lack of commitment from staff who joined the company during remote working circumstances, but are now expected to be based in the office
  • Risk of new hires leaving if policy changes soon into their tenure
  • Candidates potentially using the position as a stopgap while home working is mandated

Any of the above could severely damage an organisation’s growth plans for 2021.

 

The Battle for Talent

 

Now, let’s take a moment to consider the decision-making process for a completely new hire.  A vagueness around what their working pattern will be, and when, is clearly a huge dilemma. This uncertainty in the current market prompted us to conduct a short poll within our esteemed learning professionals' network.

A graph showing the willingness to join a company without a clear remote working policy

Although 10% were happy to be somewhat laissez-faire, unsurprisingly, 78% of those polled were not. Some of those polled may want more office working, some may want none at all. That’s not the point. Fundamentally, they would want to know what they are agreeing to before making a life-changing decision and joining a new company.

Existing staff will be more content with a ‘wait and see’ approach; after all, they know how the company operates and have personal relationships with their Managers. They are likely ingrained in the company culture and have experienced both commuting into the office and working remotely. Whereas new hires would have to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. Not knowing where your desk will be isn’t the best circumstance to enter a new job with.

 

Clarity is the Key

 

Organisations that have a clear strategy and offer unambiguous communication will be the real winners when it comes to talent acquisition. New hires will join companies with the assurance that they know what to expect and the confidence that they have made an informed career decision.

So, the question we pose is this; is your company in a position to offer working pattern clarity in a legally binding contract of employment? 

If not, you will want to add this to your list of priorities and ensure that your plans for continued growth in 2021 are well on-track.