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Lockdown Legacy – 12 Positive Changes for Workplaces

Frank Creighton, Director of Business Development - Appreciate Group

As the UK reflects on the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown and introduction of furloughing and working from home, here is the Lockdown Legacy 12-point list.

These are the key changes cultivated in the last year that many businesses and organisations all over the UK have introduced and embraced in the face of an unprecedented challenge – the Covid pandemic.

As the UK’s leading voice in customer and employee incentives and rewards, Appreciate, the home of Love2shop, has collated the key 12 steps taken in the last year that have brought about positive change in the workplace and will continue to do so.

Speaking on the UK’s business ‘Lockdown Legacy’, Frank Creighton, Director of Business Development at Appreciate Group, said: “Despite many challenges, the last year has cultivated a fresh, progressive and resilient culture of change for businesses throughout the country, which we can all take forward and grow.

He added: “Our Lockdown Legacy checklist is testament to the huge efforts made by employees and leaders alike. This is a time for reflection and gratitude in the business community on a wider scale too – a time to say thank you to loyal staff, customers and to remember the outstanding efforts made by frontline workers in bringing us to this point of optimism a year on.”

The Lockdown Legacy list

1 Working from home is here to stay
UK employees showed that despite years of scepticism within the human resources world that WFH (working from home) would be impossible on a large or long term scale; within a month of lockdown one, UK business had embraced it. Not only did staff adapt swiftly, many recognised the huge benefits of a home-based workplace with productivity boosted by cutting out the old culture of commutes, time-consuming office-based meetings with the convenience of building a workflow around life at home.

Going forward? WFH is here to stay with business leaders now aiming to introduce a hybrid of both office and home-based working. Many businesses plan to go even further and ditch the expense of office space over the coming years and have a WFH-only workforce – something inconceivable before Covid.

2 Greater staff autonomy
The business world found itself in a suddenly digital-first world of engagement last March. In tackling the new obstacles that presented themselves, staff took initiative like never before and showed themselves to be impressively flexible and creative problem solvers.

Going forward? Employers can now confidently delegate new ideas and approaches to staff knowing there is an openness to change and a resilience in the workplace not experienced before March 2020. This gives leaders the confidence and optimism to know that staff can take more initiative and can be trusted to meet and overcome challenges in the future.

3 Stronger staff solidarity
There has been a commendable display of colleague solidarity demonstrated in the last year. The shared experience of working together under a unique set of testing circumstances has created a stronger workplace bond. Both personally or professionally, we all got through the last year together.

4 No more daily commutes
One lockdown legacy that has had a universal appreciation is the end of the daily commute to the office. Now, the working day ends when the laptop screen closes; not an hour or two later. No more getting home tired and stressed from traffic jams and train delays!

Going forward? Introduction of official reduced and even zero commute policies; subsidised commute allowances where possible; the potential offer of a local gym/health club memberships (as opposed to office located options) and an HR policy on school-friendly flexitime for parents. Plus, ‘fresh air breaks’ as standard with staff encouraged to take breaks from their home desk and enjoy the sunshine or walk the dog.

5 Creative employee recognition
With face-to-face interaction restricted and employees digging deep to keep the wheels turning while the world changes around them, companies have had to get creative at recognising a job well done. An added complication has been that not everyone has been present in the daily ‘office mix’ – with some staff on furlough.

Going forward? Businesses will continue to get imaginative and embrace digital recognition platforms, online rewards, virtual and remote office staff reward days. Staff incentives will never be the same again.

6 Better work-life balance – goodbye 9-to-5
After a year spent working from home, often with children and pets in the house, or elderly relatives requiring support, employees have cultivated new skills in balancing time schedules and diaries in a way never seen before.  Standard working hours have been adjusted to fit in with staff’s needs.

Going forward? If the last 12 months has taught the UK anything, it is that time with loved ones is crucial to a work-life balance. This means the extension of school-friendly working hours, flexible clock-ins for those with vulnerable, sick or elderly relatives and even overnight online shifts for those with daytime commitments. If the job gets done and done well, there is no reason why 9-to-5 becomes a thing of the past. Overworking and excessive hours was an issue pre-lockdown and tackling this with extra-flexible working hours a step forward.

7 Investing in home offices
Plenty of workers started off their April sat on piano stools and beanbags, having thrown together a makeshift home office over a weekend. Now, they’re riding high on plush ergonomic office chairs, with a head-height monitor and a wrist-rest for their keyboard.

Going forward? Home office refurbishment grants and HR policies? Yes, a year fund to ensure WFH is as comfortable, healthy and enjoyable as possible. This may mean home office vouchers or introducing digital reward codes to make sure staff invest in lumbar support chairs, standing desks, laptop-risers, voice operated keyboards and Zoom-friendly cameras.

8 Community spirit and connection
Never before have employees had to embrace their local neighbourhood and surroundings as they have these last 12 months. Public spaces have been lifelines to for workers’ health, wellbeing and sanity. From appreciating nature and the outdoors, to joining in on Clap for Heroes and finally speaking to neighbours we’ve only nodded at before, lockdown has created a greater sense of community.

Going forward? Cultivating this further is an investment in staff wellness and retention. This new-found sense of community engagement flows into the workplace. This ‘bigger picture’ approach for businesses and workplaces will continue to bring a greater sense of doing more for others and reimagining CSR (corporate social responsibility) with more time for staff to work on causes important to their community – park clean-ups and fundraising.

9 Zoom is here to stay but it’s not all bad
While many organisation will introduce a phased return to IRL (in real life) meetings in the workplace, the use of Zoom and MS Teams is here to stay. These handy video calling tools have demonstrated that practically any meeting can take place online – any time. Yes, we have Zoom fatigue but no one can deny that the likes of Zoom have possibly saved many a business or at least sustained it during the last year, with Zoom seeing a 2000% increase in account registrations in the last year.

Going forward? The introduction of online video call support policies in the workplace. From employee Zoom technician support, improved home router kits and camera phone cradles, to Zoom protocols that include a minimum number of hours blue light time to avoid fatigue and more privacy.

10 New hobbies and passions
All work and no play is a recipe for burn-out. With our usual leisure outlets closed, such as pubs, health clubs, restaurants and even golf courses, workers have had to find new distractions to keep sane out of hours while living in very restrictive times. This has created a fresh league of budding painters, sour dough bakers, writers, gardeners, runners, readers and more.

Going forward? Appreciate, home of Love2shop predicts that sabbaticals and staff personal development will feature highly post-lockdown. There has been a profound impact on the idea of career development and what is classified as a promotion, as more individuals look for more meaning in their lives and jobs, with new perspectives and activities. For example, a three-day week may be preferable to a pay-rise or new, impressive title.

11 Wellness, self-care and mental health
Key to getting through the last year has been the resilience shown by staff and employers across the UK. However, recognition of the impact of isolation, overwhelm and stress is an essential factor that all businesses must accept as a lockdown legacy. Even the most mentally robust employees will have endured excessive stress and even burn-out. Many top businesses introduced 24-hour counselling services and upped their occupational health provision.

Going forward? Much more mental health support in the workplace, with awareness days and training for staff at all levels to recognise signs of stress and depression. Self-care days will soon be standard in many workplaces with wellness provisions such as online and in real life yoga, mindfulness classes and free access to counselling services becoming priority staff perks.

12 Rule breakers welcome
Many employers dropped their formal wear policy in the last year  as so many workers were based at home. Did businesses collapse because staff were in tracky bottoms and not wearing uniforms, ties or suits?? No. Many workplaces also cancelled rigid staff rules on sickness, lateness and time-keeping too and cut workers’ some slack in difficult situations.

Going forward? Work places will continue to loosen up on rigid rules around appearance, requests for time off and pre-Covid staff protocols. That’s not to say the days of presenting oneself smartly and professionally are over. This will always be required in certain settings. But more flexibility and tolerance will certainly continue for many businesses and that will be great news for countless employees.

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