A recent employer roundtable discussed how agile working has helped to maintain productivity during lockdown and how it can be taken forward as the lockdown eases.
Flexible working has been vital for many organisations since the coronavirus pandemic hit and for many who had been previously resistant the sudden conversion to remote working has proven surprisingly effective.
But what happens next? A recent virtual roundtable of leading employers organised by our sister site workingmums.co.uk discussed how agile working has helped during the pandemic and how it can be embedded after the Covid-19 experience.
It covered everything from remote working, flexi hours around caring responsibilities and line manager support to the importance of employee engagement to keep communication channels open and avoid employees feeling isolated.
The HR and diversity and inclusion leaders said that people and their differing needs had to be at the heart of any agile working plans and called for clarity about what was meant by the term. They were clear that one size does not fit all – and said it was important to talk to employees and find out what they need. Building relationships with trust at the heart of them was the key to ensuring employees feel motivated.
For those working remotely, communication is more vital than ever, with participants emphasising the need to check in with employees more regularly than usual because during the pandemic things are changing fast. Surveys are also a good way to understand how employees’ needs change over time. The early days of the pandemic were very different from the situation several months in.
Line managers are a crucial link in the chain and participants said they needed to be supported to understand how to motivate and support remote teams with guides and other material. Through regular communication, being realistic about expectations and showing empathy line managers and senior leaders inspire confidence and trust, participants said. Empathy was key, with HR leaders saying fostering a team spirit where each member of the team looks out for each other helps to relieve the pressure on line managers.
They advocated lowering expectations of parents and carers as this relieves the pressure on them and ensuring mental health support is tailored to individuals. Employee networks give employees a space to talk about the various challenges they face and gives them a useful communication channel to senior managers.