Overcoming ‘them and us’ – how to address tensions between WFH and office-based staff

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Amid all the turmoil, the pandemic and how it’s been handled has divided opinion. People have found themselves in various camps – for example, essential worker or furloughed worker, or able to work from home (WFH) or not. If you’re in one camp, by definition you can’t be in the other. And businesses and their owners have found themselves stuck in the middle of all this, to a certain extent, balancing government guidance with common sense. They want what’s best and right for their business, but also what’s the best outcomes for their employees too.

Several different elements influence opinion on each side. To return to work do you need to be fully vaccinated? And does that include the new bonus booster? Is all this at your employer’s discretion or is it up to you? Do you need masks and social distancing in the workplace – and is everyone unified and comfortable with these across-the-board rules?

Friction in the workplace

Many aren’t comfortable and the WFH culture has caused as much division as the problems it has solved. People who are able to continue to WFH are doing so, but many companies have decided that the initiative is finished, and their staff should be in the office during normal hours again without excuse. This doesn’t work for everyone however. Families with young children, for example, have become used to the ease with which they could carry out childcare, or else take their youngsters to and from school. Or to help care for elderly relatives. The flexibility for many people, especially those with a long commute, has been welcome – as long as there is no compromise with regards to work output.

Many offices have already decided to adapt their working model and jettison office space. Superfluous offices are now lying idle, which is causing a business quandary of its own for landlords. Others have moved furniture around, to rearrange layouts to give staff more space, only for but a fraction of them to return to the office. This is creating a very ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture between workers, which is resulting in tension in the workplace.

WFH vs office-based?

Should it be one rule for one employee, another for another? If it suits one person to work from home, but another to be in the office nine-to-five, which one of them is right? Each individual case is different. These are the kind of challenges facing HR departments and professionals, as we go forward out of the pandemic. Diffusing these opposite views and bringing staff together again to work as a cohesive whole is not going to as easy as first thought.

A new dilemma

It’s creating a new dilemma for HR professionals and undue stress for staff. Some people are resigning if they are not being listened to on their WFH demands, while others are dismayed that the firm they stopped working for in the office (in March 2020 to WFT) is now a pale shadow of its former self on their return. It’s a fortunate person indeed that feels no sense of change on the other side of this pandemic. But what’s important now is making staff feel comfortable, wanted and most of all confident in the company’s future – and to feel part of that future too.

Speak to our team if you are in need of our services.

Stronger together – mergers and acquisitions

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There’s a lot for businesses to take in at the moment. The autumn is traditionally a very busy time of year for many companies, with the end of the summer holiday season and the rush to get everything completed before that next big deadline – Christmas. Due to all the hectic activity, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on looking ahead while you’re in the vortex of the here and now. But it’s important to look to the future and plan out ways to ensure resilience against challenges that are no doubt on the horizon. Currently there is a lot of mergers and acquisitions activity in the marketplace.

Championing change

The logistics of two companies blending into one by whatever means is a challenge for HR managers and employees alike. Whenever mergers and acquisitions (M&As) take place, there is always upheaval. This disturbance can bring with it its own challenges – changes that will have to be navigated by all parties.

Keeping all employees updated with the latest communications is important and identifying Change Ambassadors, representing different parts of the business can prove very effective.  If clear benefits can be seen and demonstrated, staff will generally be more onside. Sharing information throughout the company is key to this and transparency between management levels must be maintained. This will engender trust and provide everyone with a clear picture of the state of play. As mergers and acquisitions take place, progress can be fast or slow – but whatever the pace, it will bring with it change and your company should be prepared for it when it happens.

Now’s the time to futureproof

At Career Evolution, we can help you, your HR managers and employees navigate the turmoil that often surrounds large scale business changes. Our Consultants and Coaches can help you find the right balance of intervention from ‘Navigating Change Workshops’, identifying and supporting the role of Change Ambassadors, and, if roles are made redundant, support those individuals at all levels who will have to exit the business.

If you would like to find out how we can help, please contact us today.

Let’s get back to business!

Despite the fact that all around us there are still reminders of the pandemic – from stories and statistics on the news, to masks – there is now a real sense of normality returning for many people. There are a variety of reasons for this, from the furlough scheme ending and summer holidays finishing, to children returning to school and students back to college and university. Other factors too, such as international travel being permitted, have led to people who haven’t been able to carry out their jobs as they would, getting back to normal – or being able to head abroad on holiday, or to visit relatives. There does seem to finally be a very real sense of ‘back to work and business as usual’.

Stop, start

The end of summer holidays seems to be a significant factor in normality returning. For many, last year was a tough year – whether business-wise, financially, mentally or socially. Many people found themselves spending 2020 firefighting to stay afloat and not taking holidays. This is true both of people trying to run their own businesses and employees who have been adapting to very different working methods than they were used to. The year – and the beginning of 2021 – felt very stop-start. We weren’t allowed to take holidays, then we were. We could meet friends and go out for a meal, then we couldn’t. We were back in the office, then we were in lockdown again. It disrupted many peoples’ routines and so many of us are creatures of habit. Re-establishing a sense of normality has not been that easy for many – be it in their working, social or day-to-day lives.

A mental reset

The lack of holidays has had a major impact on mental wellbeing and the successive lockdowns took their toll on many people. Being able to get out and about again, be it just to shop or to meet people socially, has started to make all the difference to peoples’ wellbeing. The clean break of a holiday ‘away from it all’ has provided a mental reset for many, and given them the impetus to go back to the office, as and when it is required. There’s nothing like a change of scene for helping people to be able to relax and for those of use lucky enough to, actually going on holiday has finally brought a sense of closure to an 18-month period that has been like no other.

Offices are beginning to open again and in many cases, managers are expecting staff to start being present on site. Work from home worked very well during the lockdown for some people, but for others it was detrimental to both their work and their health. The separation of work and home is often seen as beneficial, while the flipside is that ‘work from home’ has provided opportunities and all kinds of savings that have been welcomed. But companies can’t retain ‘fright-mode’ and it’s refreshing to see the business landscape moving forward once again in a more recognisable fashion. People are now making decisions in the same way as they would have pre-pandemic – with looking forward to the future and planning back on the agenda.

Busyness is back

Most staff are hoping to operate a hybrid model of working, whereby they are in the office some of the time and work from home too. However, some companies are going straight back into ‘work from office’ mode again, and expect staff to be present all the time, as they were before the pandemic. This hasn’t suited everyone, but some companies are being strict on this. It should be about what works for both parties – and discussions should be initiated to iron out any disagreements over what is best and most beneficial for everyone.

Having had a holiday and with the children back in school, people are feeling reinvigorated once more. The autumn is often a time of renewed activity, even in normal times. But this year seems even more hectic for many, as everyone gets back to busyness.

One for all or one for one? Combating silo mentality in the workplace

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It is far too easy for silos to develop in the workplace. When this happens, it can lead to a lack of communication and common goals between teams, the hoarding of knowledge and a breakdown of trust. It can all have a major impact on overall team morale. Unfortunately, a workplace silo mentality isn’t restricted to certain sectors. It is a well-known and documented phenomenon across almost every sector there is.

The perfect storm

When you add the challenges of the recent pandemic to the historic challenges of a business you can create the perfect storm for silos to establish. This is true even in companies where this previously wasn’t a problem.  Companies and employees are tackling the combined challenges of trying to keep businesses going with teams working in the office, working on the factory floor, working from home, or even up until very recently, on furlough.

The opportunity to work from home has been embraced by many people. However, not every role can lend itself to being sited away of the official place of work.  Some roles, for say in manufacturing, require employees to be present in the factory. Other roles, such as receptionists and front of house roles, need to be based in-situ. Otherwise, how can they welcome visitors and all the other jobs that require face-to-face interactions?

In businesses where there is a clear split between employees that can work from home and those that can’t, it’s important that this differentiation is acknowledged and addressed. If it’s ignored, it has the potential to lead to further divides, and workplace cohesion and employee engagement will suffer.

Creating a unified team – remotely

Even with the current challenges facing businesses, it is still possible to get the different areas of the business working together. Key to this is good communication. It’s amazing the difference that open and honest communications can make with your team. Explain the rationale behind why certain people have the flexibility to work from home and others haven’t. If the business reason and approach is clear, people are often more accepting of the situation.

You also need to think about what you are trying to achieve as a business. How different areas and individuals can contribute and collaborate to make this happen. Even your remote teams can collaborate, as platforms like Zoom and Teams have made this much easier. You might also want to consider opportunities for team training or even softer activities to get people working and talking together.

Your senior management team will play a vital role in making this all happen. So, you might want to consider what support they need to enable them to work in this different environment and break down any of the barriers that have developed over the last 18 months.  Contact us today to see how we can help with coaching and navigating change.