As we all know, people are creatures of habit, and the comfort of routine is difficult to change due to the perceived safety and stability it provides. Work routine is something that people are especially loath to change, with these routines often having been painstakingly constructed over many months and years in order to fully maximise productivity and well being.
The recent worldwide disruption caused by COVID-19 has resulted in seismic changes to most people’s work routine, with a large majority having to work from home at an instant’s notice, meaning some were thrust into conditions that were less-than-ideal and far from conducive to optimising work output.
Over the course of the past 3 months, once the initial shock and novelty subsided, a new form of work routine emerged for many; one based around flexibility, genuine work-life balance, comfort, and lots of video calls.
With the looming lifting of many lockdown restrictions, organisations are well along the path of planning the return to the office, with some already operating in relative normality in this respect.
The work routine of many is about to significantly change once more, so now is a good time for HR people to think about which aspects of their teams routine have worked best, and which haven’t worked at all.
Here we look at three intrinsic factors that help or hinder routines to consider for your team as they return to the office,
During that crazy first month of lockdown, it’s fair to say a lot of people ran the whole gamut of emotions, from fear to boredom, anxiety to excitement, and confusion to amusement. Riding this emotional rollercoaster had an impact on everyone’s work life, with some days proving impossible to concentrate and motivate oneself, such was the speed and shockingness of each news update.
Working from home for so long since then has been equally the challenge motivation-wise, with the co-worker inspired buzz and chatter that the office provides to many proving quite difficult to replicate over video calls and messaging. This has meant motivation for some days has to be completely summoned from within, not an easy task for people with a myriad of fresh distractions and potentially bad news in their personal lives.
For others, the reduced contact with co-workers has been a blessing for their work, with the ability to “put the blinkers on” and deeply concentrate on their tasks being the only motivation they need.
When returning to the office, it’s a good time, as an HR person, to encourage your team to take stock of why some days were easier motivation-wise than others, and for you to use those days as a marker for employees to aspire to when the commute starts up again.
Being comfortable, whether that be via the clothes we wear, the physical space where we work, or even the temperature in or outdoors, is often something that contributes heavily to our work routine. For the most part, people want to be comfortable to be able to fully focus on work, and finding this optimum level of comfort during lockdown has been a key part of employees routines.
At home, some people have been dressing like they are going to the office, some have gone for the full trackies and old t-shirt look, and others have gone for something in between – dressed up enough to get into that ‘office’ mindset, but also relaxed enough to acknowledge the reality that they are still at home.
Finding the right physical workspace has also been a challenge for many, as other family members or housemates have gotten in the way, as well as a lack of appropriate work furniture. Having a spacious and comfortable enough desk and chair has been vital for many, whereas others have gone for the couch, kitchen bench or garden/balcony to feel most comfortable.
A common refrain seems to have been that people miss working with other people, but don’t miss working in the office, making it all the more vital for HR people to figure out if there are comfort elements they can bring in to the office for their team, as although employees won’t be able to fully re-create sitting in the backyard in shorts and t-shirt when they return to the office, changing the office workspace to an acceptable level of comfort will help with re-establishing their routine.
Some examples of how you can help in this respect include an increase of plants and exposure to sunlight in the office, allowing employees to bring their pets in on some days, relaxing the dress code, and scheduling breaks for everyone.
Finding a genuine work-life balance is somewhat of a holy grail for workers, with many people in busy and important roles all too often finding the life side of the equation heavily squeezed out. Lockdown has created an almost mass reset of everyone’s work-life balance, with people finding the reduced hours and lack of commute has led to more time to re-connect and re-engage with the people and things that they hold most dear.
Whether it be getting more exercise in, spending more time with partners and kids, throwing themselves into cooking, or just catching up on sleep, books and box-sets, people have woven these activities into their daily routine, which has been important for mental health and well-being.
The flip side of this blended daily routine is the danger that some employees have been struggling to know when to switch off from work, as the constant presence of the work laptop ensures the temptation to check emails and messages is always there. Try to make sure your team aren’t pushing themselves too hard, and this article we have produced provides some handy tips about work-life balance.
The return to the office will, of course, have an impact on this newfound balance, therefore it is vital that employers and employees set appropriate boundaries to harness the positivity that this recent uplift in work-life balance has provided, from flexi-days and hours, to a better understanding of people’s pressing extracurricular activities.
Surveying your employees about which parts of their lockdown routine worked and which didn’t is an excellent way to make positive and trust-building changes in the workplace, with the above aspects sure to feature heavily. Being able to read and analyse the data of the survey responses will also help to make informed, forward-thinking decisions when it comes to considering the long-term plans of your employees’ work routines.
If you need help with the aforementioned surveying of employees, as well as the data and analytics, sign up for our free HR platform and start planning those routines now.