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Lockdown anniversary is a reminder to plan for long-term hybrid working

Sophie Forrest - Forrest Health and Wellbeing

As England approaches the anniversary of the national lockdown (23rd March), HR professionals, business owners and managers are being urged to plan for the future by workplace health and wellbeing consultants, Forrest Health & Wellbeing. “With lockdown redefining workplace structure and teamworking, the anniversary provides a natural milestone for HR and business leaders to ensure they have effective plans in place to support their teams as we ease out of national restrictions towards a permanent, hybrid way of working,” advises founder Sophie Forrest.

Globally, the percentage of workers that is permanently working from home is expected to double this year, according to a survey of 1,200 chief information officers by Enterprise Technology Research (October 2020), with household names such as Twitter telling staff they can work from home indefinitely.

“While make-do-and-mend solutions were acceptable as a business survival response to the very immediate challenges of the global pandemic, now that the long-term consequences are becoming evident it is vital for HR leaders and senior managers to develop coherent strategies that support all members of staff equally – no matter where they work – to ensure motivated, cohesive, productive teams,” warns Forrest, named Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2020 in the SME News Southern Enterprise Awards.

“HR and personnel teams need to think not only about the physical wellbeing of staff who continue to work from home some or all of the time, but also about their mental and emotional wellbeing,” she urges. “Yes, you’ve got to make sure they have a comfortable workstation, and you have effective lone-working policies, but you also need to address issues such as: how will remote staff be supported to feel that they are valued equally as employees? How will managers identify issues such as stress or anxiety when they have less in-person contact with their teams? How should virtual communication channels be structured to ensure they are as accessible and meaningful for remote staff as for colleagues who can grab the attention of their manager at the water cooler?”

“The pandemic has changed how we work forever. Just as HR and business leaders provided imaginative responses to the first lockdown to keep businesses operating as staff were sent home, so they need to be just as resourceful in creating new blueprints for the future to support staff in our redefined work environment to ensure their physical and mental health and wellbeing. It is only by doing this that organisations will be able to attract and retain the best talent – for those that haven’t already done so, the lockdown anniversary is the perfect prompt to plan for success in a permanently blended workplace.”

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