When COVID-19 struck, millions of UK employees became homeworkers overnight, but this was not an option for many on the frontline service. ‘When the pandemic first happened, there was so much uncertainty. At the time, it was quite nerve-wracking because we didn’t know much about this virus and people were worried and wanted to be at home with their family.’ 

To make things more personal, I have regular individual catch-ups with colleagues via Teams to discuss work-related matters and use that as an opportunity to build relationships."

Sayma Salik, People Partner at Central Surrey Health (NHS)

Sayma started her previous role during lockdown in the education sector, where she found working remotely on a full-time basis challenging. Although homeworking has been generally well-received by staff who use Microsoft Teams as a communication tool, Sayma believes it has its pros and cons. ‘When you’re working from home, you’re saving money because you don’t have to commute, your work-life balance is better but then there’s the disadvantage of not having human interaction and becoming a bit robotic,’ she says. ‘At first when I started this job, I was meeting a lot of people virtually, so it wasn’t as easy to build that relationship, whereas in person you have more of a rapport. To make things more personal, I had regular individual catch-ups with colleagues via Teams to discuss work-related matters and use that as an opportunity to build relationships.’

Sayma subsequently worked for Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust, supporting the North West London Vaccination Programme, providing management with support on HR matters, and co-managing a team of booking coordinators. 

‘We can’t offer hybrid working to the people working in the mass vaccination centres – they are there to deliver a service and they have to be on site. Whereas homeworking was possible for those office based and in non-patient facing roles’ she says. 

As lockdown progressed, most of the team members switched to hybrid working, usually working three days in the office and two days from home. Sayma says this enabled a more flexible work- and home-life balance to develop, which ultimately made the team more productive. It’s an approach she personally prefers, as it strikes the balance between spending time in the office and working from home.

For some employees, there seems to be an appetite for going back into office full time or part time to enjoy more face-to-face interaction. ‘During the first lockdown it was hard being stuck at home all the time. It’s weird because going into the office is now almost seen as a luxury,’ says Sayma.

Homeworking has posed challenges, as some managers want to keep tabs on their staff. Sayma expects the rules to change in favour of employees being in the office more often, and perhaps working one day a week at home. ‘I honestly think that employers will want their staff back in the office, particularly in certain industry sectors, due to the organisational culture. However, the pandemic has definitely made employers rethink their flexible working policies/ strategies and how we can work differently and effectively’.

In this series

Case studies

Hybrid working: Bank of Ireland

Matt Elliott, Chief People Officer at Bank of Ireland, believes COVID-19 has helped HR rediscover its caring side

Case studies

Hybrid working: NEC Europe

After implementing hybrid working at NEC Europe over two years ago, Head of HR, Meera De Sa, says success lies in trusting staff to work just as hard from home

Case studies

Hybrid working: GlobalGiving UK

Case study on a business that relies on networking, who decided sharing an office space with other companies could be the ideal hybrid solution

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