What’s next for employees and organisations in new normal?

Out of the office, for good?

As far as proofs of concepts go, the last four months of mass home working has been pretty conclusive. Certainly, that is the impression we have been given by our clients and others in our network. And this view is backed up by the results of our latest ETS Quick Poll. A headline finding was 72% of respondents saying they feel more positive about different ways of working in the future. And this, alongside the growing list of ‘big corporates’ revealing their plans and expectations around future flexible and home working, is surely proof enough that the return to office 9-5 is something neither organisations nor employees wants or expects.

Managing the return to workplaces

However, amid all this positivity we must not lose sight of how challenging this period has been for lots of people and lots of reasons. Home working and juggling of home and work priorities brings different stresses. Not everyone wants to work this way indefinitely. Some office-based workers have already returned to offices and others expect to in the weeks ahead.

Naturally though, there is some anxiety around this prospect of returning to normal workplaces. Our last poll revealed that 34% of people are “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the prospect of returning to their regular workplace. But 33% are “unsure” and a further 33% are either “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” (20% are very). And this is something organisations are ill-advised to ignore.

So, how well are organisations handling all this?

Well, by and large, employers seem to be doing a decent job. We have heard lots of anecdotal feedback on them managing the situation and communicating well. This is reflected in what we are hearing from HR professionals in our network and, even more importantly, it is reflected in significantly higher employee engagement survey scores in our benchmark for the period since the start of the pandemic (compared with a pre-Covid-19 benchmark).

This is an interesting phenomenon and one which we will explore in more detail in our forthcoming report. For now though, the quick poll we ran asked people “how proactive has your employer been at communicating all the steps it will take to keep you safe, after you return to the physical work environment?” What we found was largely encouraging, with 24% of employees saying their employer has been “very proactive” and a further 45% saying “somewhat proactive” in this respect.

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