The last month has seen, and the months ahead of us will see, resurgence in workers returning to the office environment.

But it’s not a linear line of simply returning to what went before. It feels as if every business is shaping its own new model of working.

Some are incrementally increasing office-based days, some are hot-desking, and some are embracing the new concept of hybrid working. Vaccine uptake amongst the office-based workforce continues apace, and there is a nationwide drive to get things back to ‘normal’.

So, what is office life really like, and what will it be like, now that we are learning to live with Covid? And importantly, how can we retain productivity and efficiency throughout the changes ahead?

Every employer is finding their own feet

Employers have always, in recent times, had responsibilities to create a safe working environment in the same way that factories, shops and warehouses must too.

However, until recently, the office-based approach to health and safety has rested on somewhat difficult to measure concepts such as ergonomics, or removing obvious hazards. Office-based environments haven’t been used to the same level of pressure as many workplaces when it comes to health and safety.

Now, however, that’s all changed. The HSE is very clear that part of an employer’s duty to protect people from harm extends to “taking reasonable steps to protect workers and others from coronavirus.”

But what doesn’t exist – yet – is a clear process that must be followed to reduce the spread of illnesses, both airborne and on surfaces, in offices.

Each employer has to figure out how they fulfil their duty for themselves.

What does this mean for the office-based employee?

Simply put – what one office employer is doing, is different from another. One may have already asserted that all office-based staff must be back in the office for their full hours with minimal changes to the practical layout and functioning of the office. Another may be working towards a hybrid model, only bringing back fully-vaccinated employees on a part-time basis, using a system of hot-desking but deeper cleaning.

Add this to the individual situation of each different employee and it’s understandable that everyone probably has their own different opinion about returning to the office.

What matters is that the individual employee feels safe and valued, and, as a result, is able to be efficient and productive in their newly established, or re-established, working environment. And that requires a more dedicated and insightful approach than we’ve needed before.

Employers need to recognise that a one-size-fits-all model is unlikely to result in the best performance of their biggest assets, their staff.

The winning businesses

It is already evident that those office-based businesses that are taking a dedicated and adaptive approach to managing working locations and their business models in the newly Covid-orientated world are proving to have a more productive and efficient workforce.

We’re also seeing these employers identified and valued by employees, with deepening loyalty and engagement.

This is critical to understand with the candidate shortages we are now experiencing. It is the employers who know how to value their workers in a Covid-orientated world that will attract and retain the best talent.

It also means candidates have choice. Perhaps for the last 18 months you’ve felt that choice has been stripped away. Now, you can choose your employer based on how they are adapting to keeping you safe and productive, as we all learn to live alongside coronavirus. Become a F1rst candidate today.