As of Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the mandate is clear: we need to progressively return to the office. Remote work remains to be the preferred solution in this hybrid way of working, and the employer is still required to ensure the safety of its employees.
Can we hope to return to normal, and from June 9, resume our face-to-face interactions 100%?
100% remote working is no longer the default as of Wednesday, June 9, 2020. Employees will have to come back to the office – a relief for some, bad news for others. However, unlike summer 2020, the return will be done in a progressive manner.
In the last year and a half of the pandemic, evidence has shown that effective work activity levels can be maintained even when working at 75% or full remote.
What is the new health protocol?
The new health protocol on the rules for returning to the office went online on June 2, 2021. This document is a reference to define the regulations from June 9, not only on health-related matters, but also on general work conditions.
Based on this protocol, it is up to each company to define a minimum number of remote working days, and to communicate that to their employees. “This must be the starting point of finding the right balance between physical and remote, and putting in place new practices,” said the Minister of Labor.
On company premises, wearing a mask remains compulsory, except in individual offices. “The employer must pay for the mask supply. Since last July, public authorities have been recommending that companies provide for a preventive stock of masks lasting ten weeks,” explains Anne-Lise Castell, a lawyer at Éditions Tissot. “No exemption currently exists for vaccinated employees”.
The employer must also ensure that the premises are well-ventilated. Each employee must have a distance of one meter around them, and when it comes to meetings, “audio or videoconferencing” tools should be prioritized.
How do we bring employees back with little or no pressure?
“First, you have to try to understand what motivates them, and really hear them out them”, explains Eva K. Rebane-Kristensen. The coach advises companies to organize support groups in the workplace. “HRDs and managers must let employees express how they experienced the crisis, and really listen to them,” confirms François Geuze, an HR expert.
Then, there’s management. “In such context, one type of coaching works better than the others. It is management by objective. It is simply about trust, no more, no less. No one is looking over your shoulder: you and your boss set goals, then you are given the means to manage yourself,” observes Adrien Chignard.
According to the psychologist, autonomy remains a fundamental element in motivating employees: “Let them express themselves, propose new things, and self-manage – that is the key”. Paying attention to your employees, helping them to flourish and rediscover meaning in their work, while having a decent level of autonomy – “This is how we can define benevolent management,” notes Gaël Chatelain-Berry, a management consultant.
Giving employees a choice between office and remote work implies mutual trust between employer and employee.
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Asking your employees about their remote working experience during the two lockdowns is essential in identifying the adjustments that must be made. What difficulties did they encounter? What did they like or dislike? What are their wishes for the future?
Benevolence and trust in case management will therefore be the keystone of this progressive move back to the office.
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