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Is your workforce about to become T. W. and T.s and what can you do about it?

Ah, now I knew that headline would get your attention and you may have thought of a way to shorten the acronym further but for the benefit of anyone easily offended, we’ll leave it as T. W. and T.s for now.

My intention is not to insult anyone, but I am merely using a new term that has been coined to describe the expected return to work once the pandemic is no longer a threat.

T.W. and T.s means Tuesdays, Wednesdays And Thursdays in the office.

With the vaccine rollout in full swing, many people who’ve been stuck to a desk or their kitchen tables at home for the last 10 months are starting to think about their return to the office. While there are clearly some benefits to not having to travel into work every day, such as the financial savings on train tickets or petrol, a lie in, being able to turn up to work sporting whatever clothes or crazy hair situation you fancy; working from home isn’t a piece of cake. I know many people are desperate for the social interaction with colleagues, routine, the freedom from home-schooling and the “me time” during their commute to allow mental preparation for the next part of their day.

That is why, despite some companies shelling out substantial funds to their staff to kit out their home offices, the majority of people will gladly return to the office for some part of their working week as soon as they can.

If this new term – T.W. and T.s – does seem like a popular option for your workforce, what does it mean for your company?

Perhaps first it would help to look at why mid-week in the office could prove popular for so many. With the commute to the office consuming at least 90 minutes on average a day, a return to that time pressure after 10 months of no commute, will be tough. Workers therefore may opt to group their days in the office together, with some choosing to stay overnight near their place of work, thereby reducing the number of commutes they must make a week.

With bank holidays typically on a Monday, many use the start of the week as a good time for planning, having the day at home in the quiet, void of meetings, makes sense. Similarly, Friday is the most common day to book off on holiday, so it’s often quite quiet in the office and who wants to have a long commute home when the weekend’s starting if they can help it?

So if T.W. and T. status becomes a popular option for your workforce, will it be a good or bad thing for your company?

Let’s look at the pros:

  • Team meetings should be easier to arrange as people are more likely to be around on the same days. Of course, the same theory applies for external appointments, so people could find their time in the office is nothing but meetings which might be a bad thing, not a positive.
  • There should be more energy (and noise!) in the office as well
  • Those who have become too comfortable working from home now have a compromise for being back in the office some of the time.
  • You, as the employer, have an opportunity to increase collaboration, productivity and effectiveness by educating the workforce on how to plan their working week. Focus on supporting them on identifying which tasks are best done in the office, which are best for at home, which meetings should be done face-to-face and which can still work effectively over video call.

So what are the cons?

  • Tuesdays may become less productive as people who haven’t seen each other since Thursday will want to catch up with each other.
  • Planning and major decisions may be put off until the next opportunity for a face-to-face meeting, hence slowing down the speed of change and agility.
  • Your business is paying for office space it doesn’t need 40% of the time.
  • Agreeing to working from home longer term may provide opportunities for some individuals to reduce their productivity or shirk out of work as they think it is harder to monitor and manage them.
  • Without proper planning and people processes in place, the factors that lead to a company’s success such as staff development, retention, onboarding, collaborative working, maintaining an inclusive culture and increasing productivity may be harder and take longer.

Now is the time to start planning the imminent return of your employees to the office so that you can enjoy the pros I’ve outlined above and minimise any disadvantages of staff splitting their time between work and home. So here’s our advice to have a positive outcome:

Take control

The first step will be to decide what kind of a “return to work” environment is best for your company. Does a T. W. and T. scenario work? Would that be preferable over everyone choosing their own days and therefore should it be proposed by you before your people start to make their own decisions about what they want? You may want to call it something other than T.W. and T.s of course!

Check your tech

You may have invested capital in technology to enable employees to continue to work uninterrupted remotely, but are these tools a temporary solution? Perhaps you purchased some technical solutions out of panic or necessity, and now that working from home is here to stay, are they still fit for purpose? Now is a good time to do more thorough research to find the perfect (and perfectly priced) technology for your business.

It may also be worth investing in new tools for HR practices to keep track of time spent on tasks, personal development and more. If you need advice on this, contact us here.

Optimise the layout of the office

If time in the office is more likely to be dedicated to meetings than solo working, it may be smart to remove a lot of the banks of desks and replace them with more meeting areas, presentation rooms and breakout zones. Make the office a desirable place to be and to attend. Also, keep in mind that social distancing is likely to be needed for some time yet.

Set ground rules

By allowing people the choice to work from home or the office, you are offering them a benefit and it needs to be made clear to all employees that this benefit is overruled by certain things such as poor performance or work priorities.

Upon your staff’s return to work, take time to sit down with each individual and agree where they’ll typically work. Then set this out formally and add it to your company policies. This will ensure you stay in control.

I hope this helps and you’re now au fait with a new phrase. Just be careful who you say it to!

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Disclaimer – The contents of this blog do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. We can only advise on the basis of specific client instructions and are unable to offer legal advice by email to anyone who is not our clients. To find out more about becoming a client of Lodge Court, please talk to us.