Ask HR: Is it safe enough to ask staff to resume working from the office?

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What you need to know:

  • Consider identifying factors relevant to your organisation that will inform your ‘working from home’ policy.


  • Some might include the nature and requirements of different roles, vaccination cover, cultural underpinnings, leadership preferences and global trends.


  • The waves of the pandemic should not exclusively drive a ‘working from home’ policy. 

I am a HRBP at a local bank. The HR policy around working from home has kept changing with the various waves of the pandemic for the past two years or so. With the future unclear, should one wait until later to establish such a policy or should we simply return to the old policy where employees were required to work from the office? 

The current pandemic has wrought unprecedented change, not least at the workplace. In an endeavour to adapt to the new circumstances, organisations have had to take measures including stitching together ‘working from home’ guidelines alongside other arrangements to ensure business continuity and the safety of their people. Given that the trends of the pandemic are not entirely predictable, it is understandable that its effects have kept certain workplace policies fluid.

What do you mean by waiting until later to establish a ‘working from home’ policy? Do you mean that you would in the meantime require all employees to return to the office or that you would leave them entirely to their own devices? Did the bank have a form of ‘working from home’ policy before the pandemic? 

How has your working from home policy changed with the waves of the pandemic? Have you not created some room in your policy for contingency or accommodated a level of leadership discretion to deal with the turns of the pandemic? Have you identified the jobs whose incumbents could work from home and those that do not lend themselves such flexibility? To what extent have you secured the safety and health of your staff? Have you provided necessary latitude to those who may be more susceptible to illness?

Consider identifying factors relevant to your organisation that will inform your ‘working from home’ policy. Some might include the nature and requirements of different roles, vaccination cover, cultural underpinnings, leadership preferences and global trends. The waves of the pandemic should not exclusively drive a ‘working from home’ policy. Furthermore, it would be unsound to cast policy guidelines in stone with limited visibility of what may transpire in future.

The pandemic may have accelerated the rate at which it has taken root yet it will not wholly determine the metamorphosis of ‘working from home’ policies. In the meantime, it may be prudent to take advantage of the benefits of both worlds – working from home and working from the office.

HR Practitioner                                                                                                                        
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