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What If My Staff Prefer Working From Home?

Published December 14, 2021 (last updated May 24, 2022) - NZ Operations Manager
woman working from home

The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, from online grocery shopping to sneezing into our elbows… to forgetting what on earth coins and physical money are for…  We’ve adapted and become much more flexible in every way. 

Our staff have got used to working from home over the last few years. Some have started working in a hybrid way, and for many businesses it has made an improvement to productivity and employee retention. For others, businesses have struggled to find a rhythm in flexible working. 

What happens when staff don’t want to return to the workplace? How can you support staff and keep your business running smoothly too?

What If My Staff Don’t Want to Return To The Workplace?

Your employees may have reservations about returning to the workplace for many reasons.

  • They may be concerned about catching Covid
  • They may have found that working from home easier for caring for others
  • They may prefer working away from the noise and distraction of the workplace
  • They may have found it enables them to easily fit in childcare arrangements 

Whatever the reason, the first thing you must do is have an open conversation about the situation. An open conversation means that you both feel like you can be completely open, the employee should feel that they can be honest. You don’t have to agree to anything at this stage, but it’s important that it’s an open exchange. The best way to have these types of chats is probably in person, but if your employee is worried about leaving home during the pandemic, then schedule a call that suits you both. 

Health Concerns 

Find out what the employee needs and why. If the employee is worried about catching covid, then you are best armed to know how to alleviate their fears. You can send them your WHS policies, infection prevention protocols, contact tracing registers and really show them what you have in place to prevent a surge of covid through your workplace. 

Caring For Others

The employee may be reluctant to return to the workplace because they’ve found that looking after a family member is much easier when working from home. They may for example, have been able to take their elderly parent to doctors’ appointments before work (whereas they couldn’t before due to commuting to work). There could be many reasons. Listening to their side of things will help you problem solve. Together you can work out a way of allowing them flexibility to alter their work hours. For instance, it might just be a small tweak such as ‘start later, finish later’. 

Reduced Productivity 

Some employees may be worried about productivity, they might feel the noise and distraction of colleagues hinders their productivity. They may want to stay working from home in a belief they will be a better, more productive worker based at home. You can assure them that whilst you do love output, you also love collaboration and suggest they consider how much better they can collaborate in person, with their fellow workers. If the employee is still hesitant, consider hybrid working which can allow the worker to have the best of both worlds. Some employees may work better from home, you could consider a trial period of hybrid working. 

Parental Responsibilities 

Employees who have children may have liked the flexibility of working from home, as it helped them be around more for their kids. Even if it was being home to make them lunch or pick them up after school, some parents have felt more of a work-life balance in lockdown and don’t want to return to the old normal. They gained hours of travel back each week in exchange for more time with their children and peace of mind that they are around in emergencies. It’s understandable that they might want to continue with this way of working. 

Try to be understanding and ask what is right for your business and what could be tweaked? Flexible working is exactly that, it isn’t a one size fits all approach, it can be tailored to each employee. If they need ad-hoc days a month then reassure them, that it can be written into their flexible working agreement. Consider:

  • Ad-Hoc ½ Days 
  • Flexible start and finish times 
  • Compressed Hours (pushing hours over the week into few days) 

Consider Flexible Working

Flexible working can be minor tweaks or major alterations to working arrangements. It can include the following:

  • Hours the employee work (possible changes to start and finish times)
  • Patterns the employee works (for example, split shifts or job sharing)
  • Locations the employee works (for example, working from home).

What Is Hybrid Working?

Hybrid working is a combination of working locations, usually from home and at the usual workplace. 

If you would like to look at your flexible working policies, then get in touch today and we can advise you what will suit your business needs. Our respected advisors offer free initial advice 24 hours a day.

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 30,000 clients in ANZ. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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