As Lockdown Eases, Flexible Work Arrangements Will Change

You may be letting your employees work from home right now. Will that change once you reopen your office?

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For businesses and employees, flexibility may be key to a safer reopening and future

Many businesses were able to keep operating by shifting their workforce to an all-virtual environment. Some of your employees thrived while others found they really needed that brick-and-mortar establishment, routines, and seeing coworkers in person to do well in their position.

We’ve always known that some people perform better virtually and others do better in person. However, nothing has highlighted that distinction better than COVID-19. So, now that lockdowns are easing, what do you do? Should you keep a flexible work arrangement, letting (some) employees choose if and when they want to return to an in-person business setting?

It depends. Of course, not all jobs can be performed from home under normal circumstances. The pandemic also showed some small businesses exactly which positions can be performed completely remotely. If you’re on the fence about bringing back your entire workforce, take a breather.

First, you might want to take some time to figure out exactly which positions can be performed completely virtually. Those positions are the ones you may want to consider offering a flexible arrangement moving forward.

Flexibility can be a great thing

Once you’ve identified jobs that can be flexible, the next step is determining employee performance. Of course, you’ll also want to take into account the stress of the pandemic. Working from home in the midst of COVID-19 while partners, children, and roommates might also be at home isn’t the norm.

You can’t expect a flawless performance under these circumstances. Taking this into account, consider which of your telecommuting employees did relatively well in recent weeks and which were clearly unhappy or struggling. It’s important to map this out before you approach employees with flex options.

When you have identified who seems to be a good match for working from home, then ask yourself if the business will benefit. In most cases, businesses do flourish with less overhead. Employees who are suited for working from home will likely save you money if you allow them to continue to do so. It’s likely that your bookkeeping in recent weeks will reflect this.

When you have identified who seems to be a good match for working from home, then ask yourself if the business will benefit. In most cases, businesses do flourish with less overhead.

Is flexibility key to a successful reopening?

You’re reopening cautiously and taking into account all of the local, state, and national guidelines. However, the reality is there’s less chance of spreading any illness with fewer people in the office. Extending work-from-home enforcement for positions and employees who are the right match for it will inarguably help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Simultaneously, fewer people physically in the work space also allows for more flexible time options. If your business has the capacity to stagger shifts, it’s easier to do this with some employees working from home. Staggering shifts in itself is another flexible option if you can abide by employee preferences.

Extending work-from-home enforcement for positions and employees who are the right match for it will inarguably help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
If you used to have a standard shift every employee followed, such as 8-5, you might find that some employees will thrive when they can choose early morning, evening, or even overnight shifts. In fact, it might completely change how you do business moving forward.

You need to be flexible, too

A flexible business that lets employees be flexible as well is just part of not only a safer reopening, but a happier and more productive workforce moving forward. The business, and you as the owner, also need to be flexible. What works right now for your business, a position, and employees might not work in the future. Things change, and you need to be flexible in your offerings in order to change with it.

Right now might not be the best time to revisit or create a flexible work plan. Instead, you might want to craft a temporary, COVID-19 flex-plan under the guidance of HR experts who can help you ensure you’re not accidentally violating anyone’s rights. This should be a living document that is capable of quickly changing with the times. Many experts state we’re still in the first wave of the pandemic, and it’s very unlikely that reopenings will be smooth across the board. We’ll be required to quickly adjust, modify, and shift our plans in order to keep businesses alive and employees safe.

When asked if businesses should embrace a flexible workplace, at the moment we have no choice. Even if you have an essential business like a grocery store, you’ve experienced a lot of demands for flexibility in recent weeks. Most of your workers can’t work from home, but perhaps you’ve moved workers with a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask from the busy floor to a stock room or into an admin task. Flexibility is key to any business at any time, but especially in the midst of a pandemic.

We’re all learning together, and if you’re struggling or have questions about flex-work, help is available. Start working with HR pros today.

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