As businesses across the world attempt to pick up the pieces arising from the coronavirus pandemic. There appears to be a division between organisations that would like to see the work environment return to exactly the same format as before the pandemic, indeed in some sectors, there is little choice, such as construction, hospitality and agriculture. Other industry sectors have seen distinct advantages in the adaptions they were forced to make and intend to retain them such as restaurants turning to take-away options and clothing shops selling online.
The accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) conducted a survey in January which demonstrated that 83% of employers found that staff working-from-home proved to be equally as effective as staff working in the office. The argument that the culture of a business can only be maintained by face-to-face engagement in the office is fading before clear evidence that it is not the case.
There are also a number of interlinking issues that appear to have risen higher since the pandemic threw working life into turmoil and they are having an increasing impact on the way a business is managed.
- Workplace-based mental health issues
- Diversity and inclusion
- A drive towards equal pay
The business leaders, going forward, may have no choice but to gear their management style to embrace and support equality in a diverse workforce that, at least part of the time works remotely, whilst exhibiting clearly visible consideration for the environment in the way they do business
Giambrone & Partners’ employment team warns against insisting on a return to the workplace for all as this may result in, not only other organisations luring talent by simply offering a hybrid working environment, which seems to be the preferred option for many employees. Our lawyers recognise that, for parents, the fact that they can see their young children during the working week rather than leaving before they are awake and returning after bedtime is a significant plus. Also having just experienced the first pandemic for 100 years, staff with health issues that make them vulnerable to the risk of Covid-19 prefer to continue to take a cautious approach. It is recognised that stress and anxiety can build rapidly and the perception of risk will serve to amplify the situation resulting in anxious and upset employees.
Elite talent is becoming harder to source as the Brexit effect is felt in the labour market and it is hard to see how that will change in the immediate future. Businesses must remain attractive in order to appeal to and recruit the best of the exceptional talent available.
Communication, control and monitoring of data and utilising analytics and technology to track productivity, performance, financial management, together with recognising and maximising the existing talent in the workforce will enable employers to evolve and meet current demands. The requirement for flexibility, equality and recognition of the importance of diversity is unlikely to diminish and business leaders who do not recognise these factors will be throwing away an aspect that will help them access the competitive edge.
Executives and more importantly managers will have to learn how to tailor roles to suit employees rather than presenting an employee with an unyielding job description with no flexibility. Contracts of employment may need to be redrafted to reflect the change in attitude, that is not to say that employees can dictate to their employers but the opportunity for negotiation should be provided and a reasonable approach should be demonstrated on both sides.
Equally important is ensuring that talent is not lost because of the disparity between men’s and women’s remuneration in the same workplace. The issue of equal pay has been present since the turn of the twentieth century leading to the Equal Pay Act 1970 since superseded by the Equality Act 2010. Despite every effort, there are still industry sectors that struggle with the question of parity. The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides comprehensive guidance and no employer should be caught by this wholly avoidable issue.
Employers that fail to recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion in their workforce are missing the opportunity of introducing other perspectives and vision that can bring a better consideration of both clients’ and colleagues’ perceptions. A wide age range, different cultures and employees drawn from different sectors in society can provide invaluable knowledge and understanding to an organisation.
Our expert employment lawyers can provide advice and guidance on how to manage the changing workplace and maximise the advantages that can be found in the new way of working.