Bosses are beginning to ask staff to come back to the office as lockdown restrictions ease.

However many employees will want to broach a conversation about working more flexibly between home and the office.

Charlotte Bate, director of HR consultancy MAD-HR, talks us through how bosses and employees alike can broker a conversation about working more fluidly after the pandemic.

  • How can members of staff prepare to have a meeting with their boss about working more flexibly?

As with any other business proposal that you are making, you need to consider and clearly state the benefits to the business, the team and the customer, e.g. improved productivity, reduced costs, increased efficiency, being available at the hours suited to meet the needs of the customer etc.

Be balanced in your proposal and consider what some of the challenges may be for the business, the team and the customer and how these can be overcome.

Be flexible in the options available as there may be a degree of compromise needed on both sides.

Perhaps a trial of the flexible arrangement could be considered to test the effectiveness of the arrangement.

  • How should employers approach conversations with staff about working more flexibly from home?

Ensure this is a two way discussion as there are many aspects to consider from both sides. Some people love working from home and are happy to continue indefinitely and some can’t wait to get back into the office as soon as they are able.

What is important is to take time to outline the reasons for needing to work more flexibly from home, explore the options available, understand the impact on the individual if this were to happen, do they have the equipment, space, information and capability to work more flexibly from home?

Have you done a risk assessment? Is the right level of insurance cover in place? How will the company contribute to home working costs? How long is the arrangement likely to last? How are they going to remain engaged with the team, the business and its objectives?

Whilst many businesses and employers were prepared to make do, if this arrangement is to continue into the future, we need to ensure all these areas are considered and addressed accordingly.

  • If a member of staff wants to work from home and employers want people back in the office, how do each need to approach the conversation to rectify the issue?

An open and honest conversation needs to be had between the two parties.

There may be real concerns regarding health and safety, there may be concerns related to protected characteristics, such as childcare or a long term health condition for example, therefore the employer may need to consider what reasonable adjustments can be made to support the individual, or risk a claim for discrimination.

Ultimately a win win situation is going to bear the greatest results, so work together to reach the best outcome for all.

  • What can employers do to encourage staff to come back - does it come down to safety, confidence?

As many staff have been working from home during the pandemic it can be daunting to return to the workplace. Safety is a concern but one that can be easily dealt with by ensuring all staff see the measures that have been put into place to keep all team members safe.

Also, ensure they have access to the facts as there is a lot of information available, however the source and accuracy of that information may not always be credible.

Additionally, confidence or lack of, and poor mental health need to be supported so I would suggest employers invest in creating a robust wellbeing program for their staff. Re-onboard those people returning to get them up to date with any changes in the business plan, its objectives, new systems and processes, changes in job roles and give them time to adjust and be open about their own fears and anxieties.

Also, consider the workplace and how to make it a more compelling and attractive place to return to, think about the layout, areas for collaboration, rest areas, ensure the team members are provided with an attractive proposition that they wouldn’t get whilst working at home.