SPONSORED CONTENT: Covid-19 is still affecting our daily lives and we are all adjusting to the new normal. New practices have been universally adopted. The regular use of hand sanitisers, social distancing, wearing face coverings are all things that were unthinkable a year ago, says Rachel Jones of Sodexo UK & Ireland.
Never has the phrase every day is a school day been so true as it is in September 2020.
September is always a milestone month when schools return for a new academic year. But in 2020 many workplaces are starting to reopen as well, after being closed for five months, and employers are looking at welcoming back people who have been working remotely or furloughed.
As offices and workplaces reopen, research undertaken in conjunction with Harris Interactive shows that 60% of UK employees are nervous about the immediate future, with many keen to understand how their employers will keep them safe.
We have seen this ourselves with our own colleagues. The impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown has had a dramatic effect on the profile of some of our managers. We have seen those who, pre-Covid-19, were confident and extrovert leaders, become introverted, apprehensive and nervous about returning to the workplace.
It is vitally important that as an employer we recognise this and ensure that we support their mental wellbeing and give them the right support and encouragement to return at their own pace.
Our rise with Sodexo programme includes standards and protocols that have been clinically informed by our Medical Advisory Council. They have then been independently verified by Bureau Veritas to provide certified assurances to our clients and those we serve that we have taken proper measures to ensure the environment is safe.
Remote working will continue
For each market we operate, we have developed a reopening programme to suit but we realise that many people will not return to their workplace – at least not on a full-time basis.
The research by Harris Interactive found that eight out of ten of those questioned who worked from home during the pandemic indicated that they would like to continue working remotely, albeit on a part-time basis (33% say ideally three days per week, 30% two days per week).
Organisations need to adapt and ensure this part of their workforce is accommodated and helped to feel they are still part of the team. One increasingly popular benefit being offered to this group is providing personal and home services that support employee engagement and wellbeing.
Virtual and digital programmes can help employees engage with colleagues wherever they are, from hosting events such as live-streamed yoga classes and book clubs, to simply facilitating conversations among co-workers.
The rise of the concierge services
Fear of isolation and the importance of social interaction, particularly for those who have been living alone in lockdown, are also major concerns and Sodexo’s own concierge services offer, Circles, has seen an increase in the uptake of their personalised concierge services over the past few months as organisations look to offer their remote workers more support.
People returning to the workplace have found that these services are equally beneficial to them as they provide invaluable practical support for day-to-day life admin such as arranging a boiler fix or sorting out dinner reservations.
Circles has also created a new service which provides reassurance for those returning to the workplace after a pro-longed absence. Through ad hoc or scheduled phone calls, trained advisors are on hand to explain the changes particular to each workplace – whether it’s about a new entry point, shared space protocols or PPE requirements.
Health, safety and wellbeing
The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and those we serve will continue to be our top priority as we move into this new mixed workplace future.
We understand that many people are worried about returning to their workplaces and we, and our clients, are working together to give them the confidence and assurance that this can be done safely, without making it compulsory for everyone to return to their previous patterns of work.
We are conscious that a middle ground has to be found, one that encompasses a new work/life balance which sees remote working as a widely adopted practice for many who had previously travelled to work and a safe working environment for those in the workplace.
Together as an industry we are creating a pathway to the new normal and a mixed mode of working. We have a big part to play in this and we as an organisation and the FM industry as a whole needs to continue to evolve our services and create new ones to ensure continue to support clients and consumers whether in the workplace or remotely.
Rachel Jones is director of Talent, Learning, Engagement, Wellbeing and Organisational Design, Sodexo UK & Ireland.
Survey conducted by Sodexo in partnership with Harris Interactive – 4824 online interviews representative of employees across France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, USA, Australia, China, collected from June 11th to June 16th 2020.
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