Gloucestershire's employee expert shares what 'the new normal' means for businesses

With the world feeling like it's almost back to business as usual, SoGlos speaks to Gloucestershire's employee expert, Kelly Tucker, to talk about 'the new normal' and what impact it is having on the county's businesses following the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
With flexible working becoming 'the new normal', HR Star's Kelly Tucker shares her expert insight on what it means for businesses in Gloucestershire.

From flexible start and finish times to working from home, the way we work has changed significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, bringing both benefits and downfalls. 

SoGlos spoke to Gloucestershire employee expert, Kelly Tucker, to find out exactly what 'the new normal' means for businesses and their staff - and the impact it's having on performance, company culture and wellbeing. 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the phrase ‘the new normal’ has been used a lot, especially in relation to work – but what does it actually mean for employers?

The expression 'the new normal' has become commonplace since the pandemic - and it's an important concept for employers to understand in order to navigate these challenging times.

This new culture includes reimagining how work gets done, appreciating employees in unique ways and finding better ways of connecting with remote teams. Employers need to focus on creating a culture of understanding and trust between them and their employees while they negotiate this uncharted territory.

Without doubt, company culture will dictate how workplaces are going to continue emerging from the changes caused by the pandemic. Companies that do not take their culture seriously now risk getting left behind in the long term. Employers must make sure culture remains a crucial part of their business strategy as we adapt to life beyond Coronavirus.

Recent changes from the government mean that employees can request flexible working from day one. Should flexible working be the standard for employees now?

Since the introduction of this new ruling from the government, discussions have widened within the workplace about making flexible working a standard for employees. It is undeniable that allowing flexible working hours brings with it numerous benefits, such as improved employee satisfaction and morale by offering more control over schedules. This can then lead to a greater commitment from workers to their job and less employee churn over time due to feeling appreciated.

There are also potential cost savings for companies due to reduced overtime pay for staff whose productivity may increase with a different schedule that allows better balance between their professional and personal lives.

Making flexible working part of the terms of employment for all staff could ultimately create a drastic shift in how productivity is evaluated across different industries in the long term. It will be exciting to see how this move influences the way work-life integration is handled within businesses moving forward.

What does a business need to do to offer truly flexible working?

To offer truly flexible working, businesses must go beyond allowing employees to work from home a couple of days each week. While that arrangement can provide some flexibility, it is far from incorporating true flexibility into the company culture.

Doing so requires additional steps and commitments, such as providing employees with the necessary technology or equipment they need in order to work remotely. Furthermore, it requires businesses to anticipate potential challenges and have processes in place to address them before they become issues.

Finally, it's important for organisations to provide ongoing training and support geared towards helping their remote workers stay productive, successful and engaged. By doing these things and more, businesses can become better employers by offering genuine workplace flexibility.

Are there downsides to employees working from home more regularly? 

With a growing number of employees working from home, there is an important conversation to be had around the downsides to this trend. Unfortunately, many of the realities of remote work come at the cost of company culture. Without regular face-to-face interaction in an office setting, there may be fewer opportunities for team bonding and socialising with colleagues.

Practical considerations for remote work are also an important obstacle. Ensuring that all employees have reliable internet access and processing power is essential for efficient collaboration.

Lastly, it's important for employers to consider whether more regular remote work has made it too easy for employees to remain switched on after hours. This can lead to burnout and decreased productivity in the long term, which should be addressed as part of a comprehensive work-from-home policy.

What about the four-day working week - is this something you’re seeing become more popular?

The four-day working week is definitely an interesting concept that has been gaining more attention recently. According to four-day week research, the effects of embracing a four-day work scheme have been overwhelmingly positive.

In fact, some employers have even taken it one step further by undergoing a six-month trial where employees worked four days per week with no reduction in salary. Amazingly, this trial was met with great success as companies reported improved staff productivity and morale. I definitely think this will continue and that we will see more and more companies adopting this as part of their working arrangements.

What else can businesses do to help improve their employee’s wellbeing?

Investing in the wellbeing of employees can have far-reaching benefits for businesses, both in and out of the office. Beyond providing competitive salaries and reasonable hours, companies should consider extra steps to demonstrate their commitment to their staff's physical and mental wellbeing.

Implementing regular training on topics such as stress management could help equip employees with tools to cope better with difficult situations. Offering flexible work opportunities or remote working options can also make a huge difference, as allowing employees more autonomy over their work can decrease feelings of stress or anxiety.

Companies should also look at ways to improve their workplace culture. Creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels supported is key to protecting overall employee health and boosting satisfaction levels. Finally, investing in activities that promote team building or building relationships between colleagues is also a great way to give employees the opportunity to unwind and bond with one another outside office hours.

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