Latest HR Lunchtime Debate on the roadmap out of lockdown is now available on demand

The coronavirus pandemic has made employers rethink the flexibility they offer employees and how they can utilise it to bring people back to work.

The importance of the HR function has been brought sharply into focus since the start of the pandemic and organisations and business leaders will continue to turn to their HR professionals to steer them into whatever the ‘next normal’ phase will look like.

So how can businesses plan flexible return to work strategies to suit every employee?

Alex Arundale, chief people officer at Advanced, said in our HR Lunchtime Debate on 25 May, that during the first few weeks of the pandemic their people team was shocked at how achievable the shift to homeworking was.

She said: “Of course there were a lot of tech issues, but after those teething issue were addressed, we were stable and able to be more flexible than ever.

“Everyone had no choice but to be flexible. Some people had to be asked to use their personal devices for work, but no one moaned, and we all pulled together to carry on working.”

Arundale said a lot of give and take is needed to work flexibly successfully, and that both employees and employers need to be willing to be a part of the solution.

At PwC, Vicky Robinson, workforce strategy and culture leader explained employees now work 40% at the office and 60% at home.

She said: “Going forward we’re really looking to ask our people how they want to work and design new ways of working around that.

“However, this isn’t the end of the story and we need to keep looking at office occupancy and constantly evolve to remain successful.”  

The Civil Service offered employees the chance to work flexibly towards the very beginning of the pandemic, Rupert McNeil, chief people officer and non-executive director for the UK government, said.

McNeil also warned businesses shouldn’t get too comfortable with the plans they currently have in place.

He said: “We’re about to move into quite an interesting phase [of work] that we need to be careful we don’t confuse with how it will be in 18 or 24 months’ time, or perhaps even beyond that.”

Marsha Dixon-Terry, career and leadership coach and organisational development consultant, agreed with McNeil that people teams shouldn't assume employees will want to continue to work they way they are now forever.

She explained: "Flexibility will mean different things for different people post-pandemic.

 “There will be those who for them, working from home will provide enough flexibility and for others it will be how they work and what kind of hours.”

If you missed the webinar yesterday, you can watch the on demand version here.

For more detailed coverage of our most recent HR Lunchtime Debates subscribe to HR magazine – a write up of Roadmap out of lockdown: where next for HR? will appear in the July/August 2021 issue.