Workforce Management

Editor’s Note: Tough Questions

By Debbie Bolla

To reopen the office or not to reopen the office? That is the question that has been plaguing most HR leaders for a few months now. And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to throw wrenches in the plan, the answer remains unclear.

Luckily, there’s a bevy of research and reporting in the marketplace to help keep HR informed. Mercer recently released the results of its 2021 Flexible Working Policies and Practices Survey to better understand how nearly 600 U.S. employers plan to approach the return to office. Out of 510 organizations with plans in place, the percentage of employers planning to adopt various models is:

• hybrid model (a blend of in-person and remote working): 70%;
• predominantly office-based model: 20%;
• virtual-first or fully remote model: 6%; and
• distributed model with increased use of satellite campuses: 4%.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the remote versus in-office conundrum,” says Chad Reid of Jotform. “Some employees are looking forward to rejoining colleagues under the same roof while others want to continue working from home full time and still others favor a combination of the two.”

Chief of Staff and Vice President of Talent at Ripcord Brooke Bento agrees. “The employment landscape and how employees approach their day-to-day work lives have been completely disrupted this past year,” she says.

The 2021 Flexible Working Policies and Practices Survey and Mercer leaders Lauren Mason and Ravin Jesuthasan recommend a few best practices.

Establish guidelines so flexible work works. The study finds that 97% of organizations plan to implement post-pandemic changes to flexible working with 47% actively developing a strategy now. That strategy should include guidelines and policies so the employee experience remains consistent for all.

Remain agile. It’s clear that a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist. Empower employees with options to encourage trust and don’t be afraid to pivot for safety and worker preference if needed.

Flex up. Be sure to offer inclusive flexibility that spans all workers, with options like flexible schedules and compressed workweeks.

There’s even more advice from Reid and Bento on the new world of work in Guiding the Transition (page 8) and Documents Going Digital (page 11).


Tags: July August 2021

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