It's now 18 months since the Pandemic started. Like you, I'm searching for a light at the end of the tunnel. Depending on where you are located in the world, you would have experienced lockdowns at some stage. Where I am based in Sydney, we are currently entering the 5th week of a lockdown, with school children back at home, learning online.
From what we observe in the rest of the world, our best way out of the current situation is through ramping up the vaccine rates. As I write this, Australia has currently 12% of the population fully vaccinated. I'm certainly not a politician, but as an experienced business owner, I sometimes wonder at the lack of initiative and drive we have to encourage vaccinations. As an example, why don't we have large corporates partnering with state and federal governments to drive the uptake. Supermarket and Pharmacy chains could offer $50 gift cards to everyone vaccinated by a set date. Making it easier to get vaccinated would also help. How about large Mr Whippy type mobile vaccination vans, coming to your street next week. Perhaps our armed services could play a role in this.
Everyone has their own way of coping with lockdowns. Depending on your living situation, people process the experience differently. I'm living with 2 teenage girls and a teenage boy. That presents its own set of challenges. Fortunately for you, I won't be going through them all with you in this post!
Luckily in Sydney, we are allowed out to exercise. For me, walking the dog each morning is very useful. I follow this up with some exercises at home before switching in to work mode. The small routine in the morning sets me up for working from home for the day.
Working from home (WFH) has become the new normal. It suits some people. Reduced travel times allowing more time with their family, exercising or enjoying personal pursuits. For others, WFH is very difficult. Challenges include, finding a quiet area at home, decent internet access, barking dogs, couriers, noisy neighbours and renovations in the street. I've heard some people refer to WFH as being more like living at work! The lines between work and home can quickly become blurred. Leaders I'm working with know they need to maintain regular communication with their home based staff. Finding the right weekly combination of 1-1 video calls, phone calls, group chat and group zoom meetings appears to be the key.
I very much doubt that we'll see a full return to working from an office in the near future. From my reading and discussions with clients, the Hybrid approach is the most likely way forward. This could be WFH for 2 or 3 days each week and 2 or 3 days in the office each week.
The trick for employers will be to make returning to the office appealing. If the upside outweighs the downside, and the health advice permits it, the momentum will quickly shift.
To entice people back to an office employers will need to consider:
- More inviting collaborative and Covid safe work environments
- Additional benefits outside of work including; Yoga, Pilates, Meditation and fitness offerings
- Flexibility with expectations re start and finish times
- Dedicated time and space for informal networking opportunities
- State of the art IT and ergonomic office furniture
- Fun and engaging random and scheduled activities that can only be experienced by being there
- Engaging and inspiring speakers, coaches, corporate trainers, comedians and magicians
- Healthy snacks - yes, the fruit box is back
- Quality barista coffee
- Access to EAP (Employee Assisted Programs) and mental health services
As Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner, in the movie, field of dreams) said - "If you build it, they will come".