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5 things employers need to watch out for as we prepare for the lifting of workplace restrictions:

Wellbeing is going to be critical. People have been impacted in different ways. Some may have lost a love one, some may have struggled financially, a lot will have gotten used to doing things differently, many will have a different outlooks and sets of values out the other side of this. Parents who were working from home may see detachment issues with their young children, when they return to the office. Some will have thrived through homeworking, some will have hated it and although many employees will be happy to see restrictions lifted, there will still caution and a worry with regard to health & safety in the workplace as the restrictions may have eased but the threat of Covid-19 still remains in the background.
Damien McCarthy - CEOHR Buddy

5 things employers need to watch out for as we prepare for the lifting of workplace restrictions:

 

  1. Staff Wellbeing
  2. Wage increases
  3. Planning life without subsidies
  4. Attracting talent from a competitive pool
  5. Getting the Remote/Hybrid Strategy right

 

As we celebrate the news that most restrictions are to be lifted, it now becomes pivotal for employers to start planning for the future of work.

 

Workplaces need to remain cautious and be careful, there will be a long-lasting impact from the pandemic and it has taken its toll on people in different ways. This won’t be as easy as “that’s it, restrictions are lifted, so off we go”. The aftermath of Covid-19 will be a very tricky period in workplace people management.

 

  1. Wellbeing

 

All of the above bring a dynamic that will be complex for successful people management and understanding, flexibility, compassion and empathy are valuable attributes that employers will need to demonstrate.

Workplace Wellbeing programmes and involving your people in them can be a great way of getting the balance right. We have suffered a certain type of trauma, anxiety, stress from our Covid experience and wellbeing and Mental health in workplaces has to be treated as paramount. I have included it as number one on my list for very good reason.

 

It would be nice to see a government led strategy on workplace wellness programmes. The SME sector, which employs over 1 million people in Ireland need to make improvements on how they can get staff wellbeing right and this sector needs support in this area.

 

 

As companies look ahead to life after the pandemic, they are choosing among three basic options for returning to the workplace: call everyone back to the office, adopt a hybrid model, or provide more fully remote opportunities. Because the risks COVID-19 poses continue to evolve, companies will need to maintain flexibility in how they reshape the future of work.

How and when companies bring employees back will have long-lasting implications for corporate culture and employee trust. This may still need to be phased and definitely not rushed. If businesses insist that people return to the office, they risk losing talent. If they let employees stay at home, they may have to grapple with maintaining a culture that was established onsite. Either way, companies need to deal with the pandemic’s toll on employees.

 

  1. Wage increases

Given the challenges of Covid-19 that businesses have faced and the fact that we are experiencing a 20 year high in the cost of living, wage increases will be a challenge for the SME sector. The talent pool is in short supply currently and most industries have already experienced recruitment challenges and staff retention challenges.

Many employers have already awarded staff with pay increases during the pandemic as their staff worked their way through a more challenging workplace experience or because competition for certain talent in certain areas became very high. A business is going to have to carefully plan their wage structures going forward, because if this is mismanaged it could be detrimental.

 

  1. Planning for life without subsidies

At some point, wage subsidies will be no more. Many employers would not have been able to operate without EWSS through restrictions. Businesses will have to be very careful in this regard and once again the fact that there is big recruitment challenges and a high cost of living that may drive wage demands, it means that Businesses that took the EWSS for granted may struggle to cope post-pandemic.

Payroll costs need to be kept at the right ratios up against turnover in order to survive. Debt warehousing will also come to an end one would expect and some small businesses will face D-day is this regard.

The extra Bank holiday that has been announced will add 0.4% of payroll costs alone and there is also the introduction of 3 statutory sick pay days to come into legislation shortly as well.

Careful planning and considerations are needed in this regard.

 

  1. Attracting Talent from a competitive pool

Certain industries are facing enormous staffing challenges and this may only become more challenging, Chefs in the hospitality industry is just one.

Other industries may have an advantage here as flexibility and work-life balance will be a key attraction and retention tool in the future of work.

We will see the introduction of the right to request remote working legislation in 2022 and in the future the right to request flexible working. This gives employees greater choices and flexibility in deciding where and how they want to work. Employees now hold the power in the market. Employers need to develop careful strategies on how they can gain an edge in recruiting and retaining the talent they require.

 

  1. Getting the Remote/Hybrid strategy right

Now, this for many companies is the big one. This is going to be key and all of the above are at play in consideration with this also. If an employer wants to gain an edge, this is where they can do it. It is not the fact that an employer will provide hybrid or flexible working, it is the way they are going to do it. The next big game is, what companies are doing this best? who is providing real trust and autonomy? Who provides an emotional connect despite the employee not attending a workplace? Who supports with communication that makes life easy for the worker? Who provides tailored wellbeing programmes? The best technology? Who does not disrespect the right to disconnect or my right to a work station and risk assessment for my safety, health and welfare? Who provides for social team building initiatives that help the remote experience be a joy, not a lonely furrow? Who provides a clear remote or hybrid working policy agreement?

The above will be questions that the talent pool will be asking themselves and employers need strategies in place to make sure they can show evidence of all the right answers.

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