Work-life post-lockdown: the challenges, pitfalls & opportunities.

As the initial health risks of the Covid pandemic recede, the focus for the country is rapidly switching to getting as many people (safely) back to work as is possible. But for many employers, this is presenting an avalanche of new challenges and potential issues.

By: James Blair on

For some employers, the unexpected move in March to having some or all of their teams work from home simply accelerated a transition that had long been discussed. For others, it was something that hadn’t previously been considered as possible, but that proved itself to be not only achievable, but beneficial. There are, of course, others for whom it was not possible, or who have just about struggled through and cannot wait to get back to sharing a building.

Similarly, some workers welcomed the break from the gruelling commutes and stressful hunt for their own coffee mug that daily office life can present, whilst others missed the interaction and face-to-face support that only sharing a bricks-and-mortar office can provide.

The problem for many employers will now be one of a precarious juggling act (and this is coming from a man who can’t even juggle with two balls!).

Some may feel like they’re juggling an inordinate number of balls. Whilst standing on the back of an elephant. That’s on a beach ball. On a tightrope. With no safety net.

All will be carefully considering their options and the way forward with the business pressures that can only come off the back of a global pandemic! It’s highly likely that, for many employers, the foreseeable future is going to see a richer mix of flexible working, whether that be in hours, locations, start and end times, job sharing, or a combination of all of these and more.

To top this, some will also be dealing with conflicting requests and expectations from their workforce. Picture the scene…

Julie from Accounts wants to continue working from home as she can do Pilates on her lunch hour and doesn’t need to be in the office to open those spreadsheets. Marketing Matt, on the other hand, can’t work from home for another day without purchasing an electrified cage for his children. (He may even ask Julie if he can claim back the VAT on that!). Faz from IT wants to cut her hours as she’s now learned she can live off 80% of her salary (with a gentle curbing of her shoe habit) and would love Fridays off. Mo in Customer Support doesn’t want his hours cutting but, sadly, it’s that or redundancies across the team. Meanwhile, Phil in Central Op’s is a tad peeved that he didn’t get any time off courtesy of furlough, while Maggie from Admin’ is upset that she dropped 20% of her income for the duration that she was furloughed…

With all of these balls in the air and plates spinning (nope, I clearly haven’t even tried that!), perhaps the only certainty in these most uncertain of times is that communication and recognition are going to be even more important than ever before. Key messages need to reach everyone, regardless of their working pattern and location. And workers wrestling with job insecurities, altered shifts and less face-to-face time with peers and leaders, are going to need more recognition and reassurance than ever.

As our PM today announced more accountability on employers for how and where their staff work, but with social distancing remaining for the foreseeable future, some tech’ savvy creativity and forward-thinking may be required to keep staff “in the know” and feeling assured and appreciated.

Whether returning from furlough to remote working, returning from home-working to a reduced-capacity office, managing a newly-dispersed team with less face-to-face time or, sadly, leading a diminished team with each member taking on new and/or additional duties, a tool that can share recognition and appreciation, boost morale, share good practice and shout about good deeds is surely an invaluable resource for any business in any sector.

Now, I know I can’t juggle, but do I get any recognition or appreciation from my readership for not using the words “unprecedented” and “new normal” in this article?