Failure to communicate will destroy employee loyalty

Return to work

Feelings among office employees are mixed, to say the least, when it comes to returning to the workplace. Some relish the idea and others dread it, while the majority fall somewhere in between.

With the Scottish Government yet to confirm when the legions of home workers might begin to be repatriated, the only certainty right now is that for many staff, “work” will not revert to what it was before Covid. According to the latest Scottish Business Monitor from the Fraser of Allander Institute, only two-thirds of staff who were based full-time at the workplace prior to the pandemic are expected to resume that pattern.

That’s the message from employers, but a new poll of UK workers by HR software firm CIPHR suggests that many staff have yet to receive the memo.

In its sample of 1,000 employees, 39 per cent said they had not yet been consulted about their return to work. Furthermore, 40% said they had not been asked about how many days they would like to be in the office.

CIPHR also found that 24% were “happy” to return to the office, while 22% said they were looking forward to it. However, 22% said they were just “OK” about it, and 23% said they were either anxious or dreading it.

Whether the business plan is to return full-time to the workplace, adopt a hybrid pattern or go fully remote, it will be impossible to please everyone. But that is no excuse for failing to take employees’ views into account.

Some staff may prefer to work certain days at home to help balance their workload with personal responsibilities such as childcare, or to help maintain interests in their personal lives. Allowing them to do so where possible, rather than dictating set days without consultation, will go a long way towards boosting their loyalty to the business.

On the other hand, poor communication can deal a massive blow to allegiance. With restrictions now easing and the threat of further lockdowns reduced, workers who feel their employers are being obstinate about the return to the office may start looking elsewhere to get what they want.

After more than 16 months of enforced exile, failing to consult staff on their return to the workplace is an obvious and avoidable trap that employers must avert. To do otherwise risks losing the skills and experience of workers who have kept operations going through the most difficult circumstances in living memory.

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Posted on August 17, 2021