When the pandemic lifts we’ll need to go back to normal. Except it will be a new type of normal, and it might be quite a change to what we’re used to. It’s got us thinking about how our team will adapt to working back in the office after months of being at home and working remotely. As Zoom chats replace face to face conversations, reverting back to the old ways seems almost impossible.
Perhaps, going forward there may be a way of taking the positive changes and merging occasional office visits with a remote way of working. It’s going to be a challenging transition and one we’re pleased to be navigating with the help of our Head of People, Caroline Collyer.
The current government roadmap includes advice for employers in regards to physical distancing and corona risk assessment - have you started thinking about how you could adapt to fit these requirements?
In a word, yes! We’re keeping a close eye on the government advice for employers - things like a requirement for a specific coronavirus risk assessment before people come back to work. We’re aware that social distancing rules will still apply so we are considering a phased return to the workplace e.g. team members working in rotation, ensuring desk arrangements allow at least two-metre distancing and discouraging face to face meetings.
Improved hygiene standards will be maintained e.g. providing sanitisers, use of facemasks, handwashing advice, no shared snacks unless individually packaged. We may well need to make new guidelines for using the kitchens, for example, only allowing two people to use it at one time or allocated lunch times for each team to reduce exposure.
We have always been flexible with working hours, so this won’t be too much of a change. Most of our team will start work between 7-10am, which will not only reduce pressure on public transport but also fits in with the individual needs of each staff member, especially those who are juggling childcare arrangements.
Our communal office spaces will need to adapt
The Bright offices are on Floor 9 of a shared building in Brighton and one of our biggest logistical issues is the lift. To maintain social distancing, it can only be used by one person at a time and just two serve the whole building. We’re planning to speak to the building management and come up with some sort of agreement which covers all the companies that share our office building. Those who are physically able may wish to tackle the stairs but we also need to think of those who are less able-bodied.
How you plan to manage the transition between working from home and reboarding people back into the office?
We’re going to want to celebrate being able to be back together but in a safe way - we may not be able to visit the pub like we used to, but there are lots of smaller reasons for getting together e.g. creating opportunities for social chats two metres apart in the communal areas during the working day. I feel that it’s particularly important to pay attention to helping furloughed staff feel part of the team again and catch up on anything missed. This group of people have been actively discouraged from joining Slack conversations and even Friday catch-ups due to the Government regulations so they may well be feeling quite overwhelmed with returning to the workplace, even remotely.
Our social gatherings will need to change format
Some of our team may be in the vulnerable group or shielding someone and therefore not able to come back to work with the majority of the workforce. They should not be forgotten and it may be hard for them to see everyone else returning. We’ll make sure to include these individuals in any social gatherings via video chats and regular one-on-one catch-ups.
Members of our society will have been affected differently by the lockdown guidelines - some will have found it quite easy, others may have struggled with working whilst homeschool children or felt incredibly lonely. How will you ensure that members of your team are supported individually?
We’re paying close attention to any mental health impacts on people of the lockdown situation - some people may find it difficult to re-integrate, some people may have been directly affected by Covid-19 either ill themselves or lost loved ones. Parents may need more attention, perhaps their children have been off school and they have been juggling work alongside homeschooling. I’ve put a message on our company Slack to encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to reach out to myself so that I can provide help and support, and we also encourage our staff to take mental health days when they need to.
Are there any key learnings you feel that you and the Bright team will take from this lockdown period?
There are plenty of learnings to be had, especially in my role! Now that we have proven that our staff are hugely productive when working at home, we are much more open and confident to offer this as a option to people. We’d still like to have a degree of a physical team, especially when we have important meetings or social events but we also know that Zoom works well and it can be done!
An interesting learning I have found is that we are now much more open to recruiting remote workers in the future. This is due to the fact that we have successfully navigated running the company with everyone remote and adapted comfortably to the tools of communication needed. This will do wonders for opening up new roles to a wider range of people and has the added benefit of improving accessibility and diversity in our team.
Our podcasts are recorded and produced by the brilliant Laura Evans at Let's Talk Video Production.