As England moves past ‘Freedom Day’, employers are coming to terms with the shift in working habits amongst staff.

For some employees, they have not made a regular commute to an office or place of work for almost 16 months – giving time for new routines to be created and habits to form.

Since the pandemic started HR specialists Breedon Consulting have had a surge of questions from employers wanting advice and guidance on employee requests and new ways of working.

Below the team have outlined what they get asked the most about in terms of changes in the workplace and have shared practical advice for employers.

Increased flexible working requests
The pandemic demanded those who could work from home do so and many employees have adjusted to this way of working and would like it to remain a part of their routine. Employers are noting an increase in the number of requests for a hybrid working agreement, with the working week split between time spent in the office and at home. If able, employers should consider a potential review of the company’s terms and conditions to incorporate hybrid ways of working for its employees.

Reduced performance
As employees return to the workplace following an extended period of remote working, or Furlough Leave, employers are having difficulty dealing with staff whose work performance has declined. These issues may have been unknown to employers whilst staff have worked from home or where managers have possibly struggled to manage teams remotely. Employers should provide additional support for managers who will need to focus on getting their teams settled back in and back up to speed.

Difficulties re-adapting to the workplace
Employees may be struggling to re-adapt to working in a new setting due to factors that may have been eliminated while working from home, such as increased interruptions and background noise. Communication is key when dealing with this, consider undertaking an employee engagement survey to find out how staff really feel. Implementing ongoing communication mechanisms can also help to keep things flowing.

Recruitment roadblock
Many employers are having difficulty recruiting across a variety of sectors. The pandemic has created a skills shortage and it can be difficult to find talent with the reduced number of candidates. This has led to businesses needing to retain existing staff. Conducting re-onboarding sessions can help team members who may have forgotten the usual processes or whose roles may have changed during lockdown.

Mental wellbeing
Mental health-related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces. According to the CIPD and Simply Health Health and wellbeing survey*, stress-related absence has increased significantly in the last year. Returning to the workplace after an extended period of time at home can be a major contributor to this. Employers should review the wellbeing strategies currently in place within the company and implement mental health days to aid with general staff health and wellbeing.

Breedon Consulting is offering free 15-minute consultations for employers to talk about how best to deal with the changing habits in the workplace.

Managing director of Breedon Consulting, Nicki Robson, said: “The pandemic has made employees re-evaluate what is important to them and has highlighted issues which were most likely already present, but got lost in the day to day.

“Managing remote workers is more difficult and brings issues regardless of whether it is regarding the pandemic or just regular remote working.

“It is unlikely that these new habits and issues will disappear but their impact can be reduced by  following our advice.”