During recent years and up until the start of 2020, agile and flexible working have been the buzz words that employers used to attract employees and there has been increasing pressure to facilitate this to enhance job satisfaction for employees. Fast forward a few months and, while many of us have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home, many staff are equally as keen to get back to the workplace, having missed the interaction with colleagues amongst the other benefits of being work-based.
Certainly, the Government’s message has been that ‘it is now safe to go back’ and September has seen a huge number of staff returning to work as children have gone back to schools.
But now that people are returning, what does this mean for employers and business owners?
The key concern is making sure that staff are and feel safe. Clear communication is crucial to enable staff to understand how they need to operate when they return. Office layouts and furniture may need to be reviewed to ensure that social distancing can be maintained. The Government has provided detailed guidance, which can be found here. At Hazlewoods, we have invested time to carefully plan out a clear phased approach as well investing in tangible protection such as screens to ensure that not only our staff, but also our visitors, can work together safely. If you come to any of our offices, please check our guidance for visitors here: advisory protocol for visitors
How to get there?
The Government recommends that public transport is avoided where possible, which could see the work commute change for many. One option to encourage staff may be the cycle to work scheme. Through the scheme employers can provide employees with bicycles and bicycle safety equipment as a tax-free benefit. Read more here. You may also be encouraging your staff to be green and use electric vehicles. If so, contact our tax team who will be able to advise you on the benefits of providing facilities for charging for all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles available at the workplace and also the benefits connected with low emission company cars. Tax update: Company cars and tax
Having spent several months working from home on a full-time basis, many staff may initially be eager to come back to working full-time in the office, but we anticipate that they will then look for more of a balance between the two. We expect this to be a longer-term trend, as employees seek to enjoy the flexibility of home working combined with colleague interaction; see our previous article Remote working – is it working for you? With this in mind, now is a good time to take stock of what office space and equipment you have and need going forward so that you can ensure you focus your cash resources where it is needed. It is worth considering how you can support your staff with their running costs of a home office - read our previous article: working from home – what allowances can you claim?
We have previously explored investing in your business when it might feel counter-intuitive; (can you afford not to invest now?), and this applies not just to your tangible assets, but also your staff. It is tempting to halt planned recruitment as an immediate cost saving, but where possible, businesses should look further ahead and make sure that they are well positioned to service growing demand as and when the economy starts to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
September saw the launch of ‘Kickstart’ aimed at creating six month work placements for unemployed young people aged 16-24 who are claiming universal credit; can you help to kickstart a career? Do not forget to consider apprentices, particularly if you are paying the levy across to HMRC; funding new talent for your business.
Does it work?
With flexibility in mind, the home office needs to be right also, to allow staff to have a balanced working life. We spoke to Mark Powles from RRA Architects about their top tips for making the best of a temporary solution to enable you to set-up for your home office.
- It is essential to set-up in a well-lit area with lots of natural light to encourage you to look away from your screen regularly.
- Clutter-free desks are better for promoting a focused, working environment. Try to keep stationary/equipment contained for a box when not in use.
- As well as looking nice and producing extra oxygen, plants can absorb pollutants and lower stress indicators in the body.
It is important to take a few minutes to stand back and make sure you have implemented these simple, inexpensive adjustments to improve productivity, mood and health.
Although staff are returning to the office, employers need to remain ready to react to any potential future restrictions on the workplace. Now is the time to review how your business and staff managed during the lockdown and iron out any niggles so that your business and workforce are ready for all eventualities.
In response to the rapidly changing environment in which we now live and work, Hazlewoods business advisers continue to provide insightful content to support your business now and focus on a #BusinessForTomorrow. If you would like to discuss any of our #BusinessForTomorrow content, please get in touch with Felicity Sang at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01242 680000.