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The Issues Facing Leaders As Employees Re-enter the Workplace

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Return-to-work plans are in place and the “normalcy” brought by the pandemic is slowly coming to an end. Yet, that isn’t to say workplaces will return to how they were before the pandemic. There are plenty of potential issues and challenges facing employers as staff return to the office. 

Employees Are Coming Back. Yet, Offices Won’t Be The Same

Companies in North America are slowly phasing their employees back to the workplace on a hybrid schedule. Yet, the office will never be the same again. 

A place that was once considered the hub of all company activity and communication may now only be seen as a dedicated space for in-person meetings. Not to mention the fact that new health and safety measures such as touchless fixtures and sanitization stations will act as a stark reminder of how the pandemic has changed the functioning of office spaces for the foreseeable future. 

With a large percentage of employees voicing their preference to continue working remotely, where possible, the days of a bustling workplace may be over for good. Additionally, the toll that the pandemic took – especially concerning increased anxiety levels and lack of access to high-quality child care solutions – is a big factor predicted to bring an end to the “full-time on-site” model. For those working parents who carried the burden of child care responsibilities, a return to the office may no longer be a feasible option without employer-sponsored child care benefits. 

Leaders need to acknowledge that not only have office use changed but so have the feelings of their employees. Listening to their needs as they return and keeping several considerations in mind will be paramount to carving a new workplace model to suit all employees. 

What Are The Biggest Issues That Employers Need to Prepare For

Returning to the office will undoubtedly be as uncertain and challenging as the work-from-home transition was at the beginning of the pandemic was. Nobody can predict how a return to work plan will pan out, but being proactive in making plans for the issues that may arise can make the transition a little bit easier for all involved. 

An In-Office and At-Home Employee Culture Divide

The reality is that the “virtual office” we’ve become accustomed to over the last year and a half has become the preference for many. Working remotely provided a level of flexibility and autonomy that many employees never received before: choice over attire, work hours, location – you name it. This had given them a level of work-life balance that many were unaccustomed to and that many are not ready to give up. 

With that in mind, many companies are planning to introduce a hybrid working model that offers the level of flexibility employees want. However, that could come with downsides. As some employees return to the office and others stay at home, a large divide could begin to show in a company’s culture if left unchecked. 

Employees that are in the office will inevitably enjoy the benefits of being able to socialize with coworkers in person or hear status updates first-hand from their managers. Therefore, this group will receive advantages that remote workers will not. To ensure that communication channels stay clear and frequent, important company updates must be shared regularly with all employees regardless of whether they are in the office or not. 

The days of one-off conversations will not work in the post-pandemic office. Instead, leaders will need to be mindful of continuing the communication channels and methods that employees became familiar with during the pandemic. 

Employee Burnout Levels Could Rise Further

Employee burnout has always been a concern for company leaders and human resource professionals. However, burnout levels and poor mental health has been alarmingly high in the last 12 months. According to a recent Indeed report, 52% of employee survey respondents are experiencing emotional and mental exhaustion in 2021. 

While factors leading to burnout remained relatively unchanged – work-related stress, financial problems, death of a family member – the extent to which burnout is being felt has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Now with leaders calling for employees to return to the office, this adds another set of obstacles to an already uncertain situation. 

The issue of employee burnout is one that leaders can’t ignore and to ensure that the numbers of employees suffering from it don’t increase as part of a return to office plan employers need to do one thing: listen to their employees. A seamless transition to re-entering the office will only be achieved if it supports the needs of both parties.

Management teams will need to pull on essential listening and empathy skills to create a safe and supportive office environment for every single employee. 

Decreased Talent Retention Rates

Many are predicting that 2021 will become known as the year of the ‘Great Employee Resignation’. Conducting a work-life via Zoom opened employees’ eyes to the potential of having a work-life schedule that matched their lifestyle. These increased levels of autonomy are causing many to reconsider both their roles and their career choices. 

Although there is no data to suggest that employee turnover will be high over the coming months just yet, between 26% to 40% of employees across the globe have indicated that they would consider changing jobs this year. Many millennials have noted that they would rather leave their current position than return to the office full-time. If this is true, this could cause significant problems for companies. 

With that being said, leaders must ensure that they are doing all they can to retain and invest in their most valued employees. Employee benefit programs such as in-house training, career mentoring opportunities along with improved family-friendly policies are all incentives that employees will be expecting in post-pandemic workplaces. 

Keeping Working Parents Engaged in 2021

One particular area of the workforce that will require support when transitioning into a new model, whether hybrid or otherwise, is that of working parents. Employers must be prepared to provide this cohort with increased levels of guidance and mentoring on how to smoothly navigate a return to the office after an undeniably challenging year. 

Similar to when a parent returns to the workplace after maternity leave, organizations will need to adopt strategies that allow working parents to stay engaged, while also creating a safe environment for them to work in. An effective way to do this is by providing working parents with access to an employer-sponsored child care program.

An employer-sponsored on-site child care option is a powerful tool for retention and productivity. At the moment, it is estimated that U.S companies lose approximately $3 billion annually as a consequence of childcare-related absences. Providing your employees with affordable access to exceptional backup early child care has been proven to lead to a: 

  • 90% increase in productivity levels
  • 75% increase in employee retention
  • 30% decrease in employee absenteeism

Organizations are being given a real opportunity to use this moment to break the past and reinvent their company culture to be inclusive and supportive of all employees. 

We Partner With Employers to Support Working Parents

At Vivvi, we’ve been working with employers to support working parents where they are. We currently work with a dozen employers across the United States ranging from a 12-person law firm to 11 hospital networks. Our in-home, in-office, and on-site learning programs allow parents to gain peace of mind knowing that their child is being looked after. 

To learn more about the benefits and ROI our child care services have provided to businesses like yours, visit our employer page.

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