Returning to Work Post Pandemic

September  2021

Returning to Work Post Pandemic

We’re getting back to normal – or something like it – and/or beginning to live with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19. As we do so we’re seeing that returning to work post-pandemic may be somewhat different to our previous work experiences as employees/employers.

Thus, the full return to work with the ending of covid restrictions has seen a mixed response. One that ranges from a complete return to the office to the acceptance that working from home is good for both employers/employees. Hybrid working is on the increase there’s no doubt.

Yet, it won’t all be straightforward. Situations are sure to arise where employers and employees don’t agree on the correct mix.

For instance, there’s an increased focus on mental health and stress issues created by the pandemic with employees concened about mixing in large groups. Add to that, an increase in flexible working requests because people have got used to working from home.

Returning to Work Post Pandemic - figure and words anxiety and stress

Government proposals

The government is proposing to give all employees the right to request flexible working when they start new jobs. A consultation is set to launch on the proposals this week.

The plan would allow all UK employees to request a flexible working arrangement from their first day at a new employer. Whereas six months’ service is the current requirement. There’s also a suggestion that employers should respond sooner to such requests and give fuller explanations for refusing such a request.

The Department for Business

The Department for Business started examining a range of flexible working options in 2019. This study included working different or condensed hours, job sharing and remote working. They found:

Before the pandemic there was a huge resistance to people working from home. But the reality is they are as productive, if not more so, in most cases. Post pandemic, it’s understandable that the focus has changed.

Going forward, flexible working requests are likely to include working from home. Whereas many employers would have considered it unpalatable pre-covid, it will become reasonable to consider.
 
The main point here is that employers need to sit back and take stock and not be dismissive. Even before the new proposals become legislation employers must show themselves open to reasonable requests for flexible working. Requests that are sure to include proposals to work from home.
 
The potential repercussions of employers getting this wrong can be costly. A recent tribunal awarded £185,000 in damages to an employee denied a flexible working request to leave work earlier to collect her daughter from nursery. This happened because the employer was dismissive of the request and failed to give active consideration to it. Not an example of asking to work from home no. But the case shows that the risk of being dismissive of such requests is clear.  And not only in relation to children either. On the increase, post pandemic, we have pet-related flexible working requests. 
 

Pets in the workplace

How do you, as an employer, feel about having pets, other than assistance dogs, in the workplace? Is this something you’d offer to help your staff ease themselves back into work?

We’re familiar with the concept of separation anxiety in babies and children when they start nursery and school. But separation anxiety in pets and between owners and their pets is a thing too – as this article from Digiday reports.  

dog wearing specs sat at laptop

Pet ownership explosion

It appears that the pandemic saw an explosion in pet ownership. And now, as they return to work, these new pet owners are concerned about being separated from their furry friends as they go back to the office. 

But, as the article goes on to state, not everyone will have to separate from their four-legged friends. On the other side of the pond at least, ever-growing numbers of employers, acknowledging the role pets play in their employees happiness and mental well-being are giving serious consideration to operating pet-friendly offices. ‘Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington, ran a survey which found that half of 500 C-suite executives would allow pets upon the return to the physical workspace, while 59% said they would allow more flexibility for workers who want to remain remote because of their pets. ‘

A note of caution

The problem with this approach is that it’s rather making the assumption that everyone in a work place would welcome the presence of pets in the work place with unbridled joy. But what if they wouldn’t? What if you have employees for whom the presence of, for the sake of argument, dogs in the workplace, would cause them stress. And it might – and for very valid reasons.

It could be that you have employees with a real fear of dogs. Or employees with a serious allergy to dogs. In that instance, it’s one thing for someone with a dog allergy to take an anti-histamine so they can be irritation free in the presence of a dog on the odd occasion. But to ask such a person to work with dogs in close proximity day-in-day-out could have a major negative effect on their physical health.

So, in allowing one employee to ease their particular stress by bringing their dog to work you could cause another staff member a quite different but just as valid, stress.  

If you’re an employer considering offering a pet-friendly workplace then you’ll need to offer a policy outlining the expectations of the workplace. That way all employees can be aware of their responsibilities. Go-Legal HR will help you put such a policy in place – so you don’t have to go barking mad.

Get in touch today. You’ll find our contact form on our website here.  

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