“In almost every conversation I have with business leaders and HR professionals, their concerns are clear. Company cultures are hard-pressed to keep up with the huge changes in employees’ expectations of their employers – and the new trends in employee engagement. With so much changing so quickly, I’m sure you have questions to which you need straightforward answers and solutions – now.” - Steve Middleton at Engagement Multiplier 
2020 was an unprecedented year. One of major upheaval, which led to changes, which led to new ways of thinking and working.Due to lockdowns, employees were either furloughed, worked from home or continued to work in the workplace. Everyone’s experience was different. 
And all of these solutions pose their own issues and have had a level of impact on company culture. Employees returning to work may have anxieties about mixing again and concerns regarding their skills. Will they still be able to do their job efficiently? Will there still be a job for them to go back to? 
Those who continued to work throughout the pandemic, whether at home or in the workplace, may be tired, worn out by the different demands that will have been placed on them. Working from home when you are not used to it requires a shift in thinking, and this is made even more difficult when you are surrounded by family members whilst trying to work. 
Whilst some employers may decide to continue with flexible working schemes, allowing staff to work from home on a permanent or temporary basis. Another change in working habits and practice that we have to work through. 

What are the issues? 

The main issues arising from this have been identified by HR Solutions as: 
FATIGUE: Rising burnout and exhaustion, leading to employee fragility, 
MISALIGNMENT: Rapidly growing misalignment between employers and employees, 
RESISTANCE: Disconnect around returning to the workplace, 
MISUNDERSTANDING: Employee expectations have dramatically changed. 

Heading towards 'normal'. 

Businesses owners have had to deal with a lot of uncertainty over the past year. Will they survive? Will they be able to grow? Back in March 2020, the idea that restrictions would be in place for the next 12-14 months, on and off, was unfathomable. 
We have adapted and re-adapted to new ways of working and as we head towards a more ‘normal’ life. The effects that recent events have had on the workforce should not be ignored if businesses want to maintain positive company cultures and start to thrive again. 

What can you do? 

As a business owner, how can you do this? 
Listen to the concerns that your staff have and give honest feedback. 
Answer any questions that staff may have. 
Keep lines of communication open. 
Relay updates and information to staff as soon as possible. 
Staff want to feel valued and included. Doing this can be an enormous help to maintaining a positive company culture. 
By being aware of these issues, making considerations and putting policies and strategies in place, it is possible for a much smoother back to work transition for both employers and employees. 
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