Fairness revealed as top employee concern as companies decide who comes back to the office

Fairness is a priority for employees when returning to work

As the employers grapple with decisions around how to bring people back to the office, fairness around office rota decisions and implementation is a top employee concern.

This is according to HSM, a research consultancy specialising in the future of work.

According to a recent webinar poll by HSM of 102 people in 64 companies based across 30 countries, people are most worried about the following in terms of fairness:

  • How promotion decisions are made in hybrid working arrangements – 37%

  • How caring responsibilities are factored into performance targets – 30%

  • Who should be in the office and who should stay at home – 24%

  • Who should have a flexible time schedule – 9%

“The impact of Covid-19 on workplaces has brought more tough decisions to be made while the resources to make these fair decisions are stretched,” Emma Birchall, managing director at HSM, said.

“Our research shows that this impacts on the procedure and the interactions. Managers are feeling pressured to get the job done and are therefore making decisions very quickly, sometimes cutting corners – failing to represent the needs of everyone involved.”

“As managers and colleagues work remotely, they are less able to have those interactions that would help people understand why the decision has been made, to treat people with respect and being honest about the implications.”

“We know few people want to go back to pre-Covid days. A lot of research (including ours) has shown that flexibility is one of the main benefits of this new way of working,” Professor Lynda Gratton, founder of HSM and professor of management practice at London Business School, said.

“At the same time, we are now in a recession and there is a microscope on costs and productivity.”

“Managers are facing many dilemmas and questions around how they manage flexibility, how they acknowledge caring responsibilities, the role of automation for certain tasks and home working versus office productivity.”

HSM worked closely with Brit Insurance, a leading global specialty insurer and reinsurer, as they considered their new world of work following the pandemic.

According to Lorraine Denny at Brit Insurance, the company’s work with HSM highlighted the value of making fairness the bedrock of its approach to the future of work.  “Rather than relying on the usual small number of people to give their views, we randomly selected 10% of our entire population of Brit Insurance and tasked them with creating a blueprint for the future. This ensured we heard from a range of perspectives, which will only help bolster staff morale and productivity.”

HSM is urging employers to take three actions to ensure fairness as they bring employees back to the office:

  1. Engaging people directly in a conversation about the choices and trade-offs they face.

  2. Being transparent about how and why decisions are made.

  3. Provide managers with the tools and training to help them support their colleagues virtually.

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