Wendy Tomlinson: The ‘benefit’ of returning to work

Wendy Tomlinson: The 'benefit' of returning to work

The working atmosphere and environment are significantly different from what we are used to. Agile working and more flexibility are now benefits that employees can expect as standard. Something theoretical before Covid-19 (Coronavirus) is now being applied on a global scale.

How employees rate their employers on the response to the pandemic and support given throughout lockdown and beyond is the next phase. Simultaneously, enhancing remote working benefits and policies is fundamental to achieving success, engagement and sustainability. Businesses will come under intense scrutiny for not acting responsibly.

Think broadly and creatively when it comes to benefits. Smart deployment of technology and the home office can increase collaboration. We have been looking at this for a while. The crisis accelerated our investment in collaboration tools and we continue to invest in our systems and infrastructure. Virtual training for our people and increasing agile working productivity will be a priority. This extends to supporting people in enhancing their internet connectivity from home, as well as providing technology loans.

It is also important to be focused on purpose, social responsibility, sustainability and culture. One of the first things we did was to connect with our people to find out what they would find most helpful. We asked them to feed back ideas and experiences that led to a range of new initiatives and benefits.

Supporting wellbeing should be a priority. Virtual yoga and online mindfulness sessions have been well received but think about your network, clubs and the common interests of the workforce. Technology has been the hero of the pandemic, allowing people to keep in touch and stay positive with a variety of events including cooking classes, virtual choir sessions and concerts.

Parental network sessions should be set up to discuss individual circumstances and help adoption of agile working as parents adapt to challenges of home schooling. All these areas should be maintained when there is a return to office working so that there is equity of access to resources and tools. We anticipate continuing to run virtual yoga sessions even when a number of people are back in the office.

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To contemplate a permanent change to the way we work, we need to have the support and commitment of leaders. This means clear communication of new principles and policies around flexible working. It also means learning and development to support managers in managing remote teams, mentoring and coaching team members and being role models.

Wendy Tomlinson is UK talent director at Taylor Wessing.