As we navigate our way through the final stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, we as a population find ourselves in the midst of a reconstruction job. A rebuild not unlike those of the past, at the end of World Wars and economic collapses. While this reconstruction job will no doubt be defined by differing opinions from the wide range of prominent figures involved, what cannot be denied is this – the rebuild job will lead to the creation of a world very different from the one we have grown up with and lived in for the last 30 odd years. The months of late 2021 and early 2022 will consist of planning the details of this rebuild, determining how this world will look exactly in the wake of the most devastating pandemic since the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918-1920.
But what about the workplace? How will it look in the immediate future. The workplace will indeed be unlike the one we have come to know, however maybe not entirely so. Hybrid working is a routine many businesses have adopted in the recent eighteen months as a means of adapting to the challenging times. It consists of employees splitting their weekly work days between their physical offices and their homes, ensuring that staff are not all in the same place at the same time together, eschewing the rise in health concerns. This has been proven to effectively minimize safety risks, enabling workers to faithfully adhere as best as possible to governmental health protocols.
THE RIGHT TIME FOR HYBRID METHODS
The question of when is the right time to adopt a hybrid work approach is one that has plagued numerous businesses worldwide. Many are hesitant to adopt this new schedule out of fears regarding the possible disruptions it may have on an employee’s working ability. Others may be hesitant to accept hybrid work approaches sheerly due to a certain unfamiliarity with its methods. However, it has been proven to have a positive influence on both the wellbeing and the productivity of staff. If certain businesses are thinking twice about adopting such an approach, then they may benefit from looking at other business models who are employing it. Indeed, it is only when they look at these certain businesses that the question of when is the right time can be answered.
For example, The Irish Times reported in an article that back in September 2021, numerous notable businesses, from banks to the Civil Service, were adopting the methods of a hybrid work approach. As planned, many employees returned to their offices for the first time since Covid’s outbreak in March 2020. This was all a part of the wider plan for employees to gradually return to their offices, while adhering to the methods of a hybrid work model, details of which were sorted out amongst respective employers. The same employers asked by The Irish Times stated that they hoped to be operating a hybrid work model in the foreseeable future.
September marked the beginning of a transitional period of workers slowly returning to the offices for the first time in over a year. A gradual return was the most natural solution – it would have been unreasonable and downright unfair of employers to force employees to return to their physical offices in an as sudden a manner in which they were kicked out. Avoiding the “you want us to return, what about when you kicked us out a year ago without any warning” attitude was best for businesses nationally.
Health and Safety
In addition to appeasing workers, this policy also allowed for businesses to prioritize the safety of their workers, in line with public health recommendations. Indeed, the announcement to allow workers to return to the office in September was a part of a much bigger plan. September to March will be a time of gradual change, involving said employers adopting a hybrid work approach, then from April onwards, all work departments within the Civil Service would incorporate mixed work schedules for their staff. The Health Service Executive noted that they would attempt to instil a similar set of guidelines as the Civil Service, in line with government recommendations.
Indeed, the government announced their own plan to introduce a permanent hybrid work approach in the future, with 80% of work based in the office, and the remaining 20% based in the homes of respective employees.
Popularity and public approval
A hybrid approach would also suit the general demands of the population as a whole. For example, an August 2021 article in the Irish Examiner reported that just under 70% of the Irish population hoped that they would be offered a hybrid work schedule in the future. Introducing such a schedule may be a fruitful way of appeasing a workforce already shaken by the pandemic, while obviously taking extra steps in prioritising the health and safety of workers and the public as a whole.
HYBRID WORK AMID RISING HEALTH RISKS
Additionally, over the past few months, while many businesses have adopted a hybrid work model, many other have instead elected to continue with the conventional five day a-week office routine, very similar to the norms of the pre-Covid workplace only with the added health measures like social distancing. However, the rising number of Covid-positive cases throughout the country over the past few months has been a truly worrying matter, and has caused the possibility of another lockdown to loom large. As the days go by and this possibility becomes ever more likely, we must look at the businesses who are adhering to the old methods of traditional work routines, and why a hybrid work approach is beneficial.
Introducing a hybrid work method has the potential to curb the spike in cases greatly. Limiting the amount of close contact employees have with one another on a wider basis is perhaps the best thing to do amid this rising concern, but one could go even further. One could argue that it is the responsibility of employers to introduce such a scheme, for the safety of not just the workers themselves, but for the families of the workers, in addition of course to the safety of the employers themselves.
In the wake of such troubling statistics, the reasons a hybrid work approach would be more preferable than of an outright move to remote working are simple. It would provide businesses unfamiliar with such a style to gently navigate their way through this uncharted territory as slowly as possible, allowing companies to make mistakes and learn from them without any rush. An outright shift from office to permanent home-based work would be a repeat of the 18 months before, potentially causing another serious disturbance in the wellbeing of the workforce.
We at Ronspot have closely inspected the shifting landscapes of the working world since the beginning of the pandemic. Hence, we have attempted to put our own stamp on it, creating a number of useful apps that have the potential to smoothen out the rough transition many businesses may experience in changing to a hybrid work model, while additionally making the hybrid work model itself more bearable.
One app that may prove incredibly useful is our desk booking system app. This user-friendly app gives an employee the power of reserving a desk in their office space for the days in which they have to go into work. The app is simple and easy to use, employees are presented with an interactive map where they see the real-time availability of desks in their office, and with a tap of a button they are reserved, and during this time no one else can book this desk.
An employee can reserve a desk as far back as 90 days in advance, and once they are finished with a particular desk, a cleaning report can be generated by the employer. This will cause a team of professional cleaners to enter the space and make sure that the used desk is cleaned down, making it ready and safe for the next schedule employee to use.
Fears that employees may be taking advantage of their work days based from home is always going to be pertinent in the minds of employers. Chances that workers will grow complacent and relaxed, letting their work decline, become slimmer if one uses of our Flexwork app. This similarly easy-to-use app allows for managers and superiors alike to monitor the hours their staff is putting into the working day, effectively overseeing the amount of work done by respective employees. Essentially removing the possibility that workers will slack off without punishment when they are working from home is a vital step in gaining hybrid work wider acceptance from more businesses, as this is perhaps the greatest fear many have when considering the hybrid approach.
It will be the responsibilities of employers to see to ensuring that their offices adhere to the necessary health protocols like social distancing. This may entail repositioning desks six feet away from each other, or allocating different schedules to employees to make sure an acceptable number of people are in the same office space at the same time.
The success of a hybrid work approach will of course depend on the efficiency of the employer and staff, however, if they are dedicated enough to make it a success then, with the aid of our Ronspot apps, there is absolutely no reason it cannot be a total success. But it is not merely a shift that should be taken sheerly because it can be undertaken, more because it simply must be undertaken. In the wake of such staggering health crises and mounting concern, a change must be made. The workplace may be the best place to start, and a hybrid work approach may be the best approach possible during this turbulent and uncertain time.
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