With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions – even if the final hurdle in the UK has been delayed – employers bringing people back to the office might get a range of new requests related to how people work. Most employers would already be expecting questions around hybrid working – with all the headlines about it, it’s a given. But it would be wise for HR to keep an ear to the ground so they are prepared for other requests their workforce might raise, to formulate responses for when people start knocking on HR’s door.
Can I permanently work from overseas?
Requests to work from home in another country have no doubt already started. Many employees have seen that homeworking can be positive for both them and their business, and they may wonder if they can make this arrangement work from another country.
The answer to this question will depend on many factors. HR will want to do their homework from a compliance point of view (e.g. legal and tax implications) to see what the ramifications might be. Queries should also be raised about whether this arrangement is in the best interests of the employee and the business long term. Questions include:
- Will the employee end up feeling isolated if they never have face-to-face interactions with their team?
- Is it fair to/does it work for the rest of the team if this employee is never on site?
Can I bring my dog to the office with me?
A lot of people who worked from home over the last 12+ months took the opportunity to adopt a pet. In December 2020, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home stated: ‘This year we’ve seen a surge in the demand for animals during lockdown periods.’ So, it’s highly likely that people might ask if they can bring their dog into work with them as on-site working resumes.
Some workplaces already embrace four-legged friends. Google is one such organisation, declaring: ‘Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture.’
To decide if a business should allow dogs on site, HR and business leaders need to determine if saying yes is good for the dogs, the employees, and the business overall. Some questions to ask are:
- Is the worksite safe for dogs?
- How will allowing dogs on site be organised?
- Is there anyone in the workforce who is allergic to dogs?
Can I work outside the normal 9-5?
The timing restrictions that come with on-site working were lost for some employees last year. So, they may well be wondering if going forward they can work at times that suit them, rather than the traditional 9-5. Parents who have managed childcare and work at home might have discovered that working in the evenings, when children are in bed, is their most productive time of the day.
If a role doesn’t require a lot of interaction with other team members, is an employee perfectly justified in asking for truly flexible working provided the job gets done and on time?
HR and business leaders will likely need to look at these requests on a case-by-case basis. The issue that comes up with homeworking, about managers feeling more comfortable being able to ‘see’ their employees working, will be exacerbated if employees are working outside normal business hours – this will need to be managed, too.
No matter how HR and business leaders decide to answer new requests coming their way, it’s important they take a fair and impartial approach, and then communicate their reasoning with their workforce as appropriate. Find out about 3 current opportunities for HR to showcase a fair approach to people management.