Most employers had to make major changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lot of those changes centered on employees working from home.
Managers have spent a lot of time and energy on making remote work possible, either with new tech tools and digital security initiatives, or by reworking existing policies and procedures to accommodate a new remote work reality.
As knowledge about effective safety measures ramped up, PPE became more available, and vaccines began to be distributed, many employers gradually welcomed employees back into the office in-person. However, many kept some remote work options in place — due to increased safety or simply due to the unexpected benefits and conveniences that a more flexible work policy provides.
If this describes your workplace, employees are probably starting to settle into new routines that combine some in-person work with some remote work. And, if so, it’s a good time to check in and assess how those new flex-work schedules are going. Are they still delivering the intended benefits that were expected? Is there room for improvement?
Employers who have embraced flexibility should be commended, but new policies may require some fine-tuning along the way. Here are a few specific questions that managers can ask employees to assess the success of new work arrangements.
Do they need better work-from-home accommodations?
In the initial rush to go remote, managers may not have had enough time and resources to make sure that employees were truly set up for success working from home.
And employees may have been totally willing to make things work as best they could at the beginning of the pandemic even though their work-from-home situation may not have been ideal.
But if you’re hoping to make remote work more permanent, it may be necessary to see what your employees actually need, physically, to do their jobs well from home. For example, maybe they would do better work if they had an ergonomic office chair, a standing desk, or better lighting in the place where they normally work. Along the same lines, maybe a few aesthetic improvements in their work area would go a long way toward creating a space they actually want to spend time in.
For this reason, many fully remote companies give hiring bonuses or allotments to employees earmarked for home office upgrades and furnishings. You may want to consider going this route, as well. If you can’t give employees cash to improve their home office, you may be able to work out some partnerships with local office furniture stores to make it easier for employees to purchase the things they need.
Would they rather spend more time in the office?
In most cases, the biggest factors affecting work-from-home productivity aren’t related to physical comfort. Most of them come from the competing demands on time and attention that employees have to deal with at home.
For example, in many households during the pandemic, multiple people may be working from home at the same time, and kids may be attending school remotely.
For these reasons and others, not all employees will want to take advantage of the perks of remote work, and would rather come into the office as usual. It’s a mistake to assume that everyone prefers to work from home, or that everyone wants to work from home the same amount.
Are they happy with their schedules?
To reduce virus transmission risk, some employers have adopted set, staggered schedules for employees so that they’re not all in the office at the same time.
If you’re still requiring some employees to work from home throughout the week but haven’t given them full control over when they work from home and when they come into the office, it’s time to ask if they’re happy with their current schedules.
Employees may have suggestions about schedules that would work better for them (for example, coming in every morning instead of just three days a week, or vice versa) that might also work better for everyone.
As we wrote in our post on how to schedule meetings that respect everyone’s time, employees’ schedule constraints can play a huge role in their being able to concentrate and work productively.
For example, creative people on your team often require hours of uninterrupted work or deep concentration to get into the flow (think programmers, writers, or artists). If they can’t work in peace during the hours that they tend to be the most productive, it will take them much longer to get quality work done.
Employees should be able to choose schedules that make them more productive, not less.
Do they feel safe working their new schedules?
As we wrote in our post Best Practices for Office Security After COVID-19, even minor changes to office hours in the shorter months of the year can mean that your employees will be more likely to be coming and going in total darkness.
If you’ve staggered schedules significantly or allowed employees to come and go as they please, some employees may find themselves completely alone in the office or walking through the parking lot alone.
If employees are feeling nervous or unsafe under these conditions, employers may be able to help by investing in better lighting, surveillance, or better access control methods (such as ones that don’t leave employees vulnerable and distracted fumbling with locks in a dark parking lot).
Do they feel comfortable requesting changes to their schedules?
Do employees know that their feedback on the flex work policy matters? Do they have confidence that the insights they offer will be carefully considered? Or, do they suspect that their input matters very little — or may actually damage their career prospects?
No matter how carefully you word your questions to employees or how often you check in with them, these check-ins are unlikely to yield helpful information if employees don’t feel comfortable being honest with managers.
If they’ve noticed that their managers take complaints personally and/or that suggestions contrary to the popular one result in arguments, they’ll certainly plaster on a smile and tell you that the flex-work policy is just fine.
We believe that employees’ willingness to be candid often comes down to company culture.
At The Receptionist, one of our core values is Authenticity. We trust that our colleagues have good intentions when they give critical input, because we can only provide the best experience for our customers if every employee feels empowered to share their thoughts honestly.We believe that employees’ willingness to be candid often comes down to company culture. Click To Tweet
For more on how to build a culture that values authenticity, both among employees and for customers, check out these resources:
- Podcast: The Importance of Assuming Positive Intent at Work
- Want a More Authentic Brand? 4 Easy Changes to Make
- Avoid These Culture-Building Mistakes at Your Office
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