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​From Couch to Water Cooler – How Leaders and HR Teams Can Help Battle Home Comfort Syndrome

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While there have been several measurable benefits to homeworking, for both employer and employee, it’s undeniable that it has its pitfalls, such as the newly coined ‘Home Comfort Syndrome’.


What is Home Comfort Syndrome?
With our home and work lives becoming porous and the lines increasingly blurred, there has been an identifiable downturn in professional behaviour, according to research by Poly. It concludes that employees are becoming ‘too relaxed’, and employee standards are slipping. 57 per cent of those surveyed admit to being less concerned about their appearance since working from home, 37 per cent confess to working from the sofa, and 37 per cent own up to being in the bathroom whilst on a conference call.

As business leaders navigate the return to work, even if only part-time, they may face resistance. This may be due in part to Home Comfort Syndrome but for others, it could be anxiety about a return to 'normal' while COVID-19 remains as a lingering threat.

So, how can leaders and HR teams welcome employees back to work and help the business to recalibrate?


A phased return to work
As the Job Retention Scheme ends and restrictions lift, the government has recommended a gradual return to work. Whether you’re planning to come back to the office full-time or part-time, it’s crucial you give team members the space to transition slowly. Ensure you are empathetic to any anxieties individuals may face and be patient with them – returning to some sort of normality isn’t going to happen overnight.


Re-inductions and a warm welcome
A robust re-induction programme can create a warm welcome back, helping colleagues feel reassured and reintegrated into the workplace, according to the CIPD.

Line managers can discuss adjustments and support available for an effective return to work and explain the safety measures that are in place to avert fear and perhaps outline professional standards and expectations for those who have fallen foul of Home Comfort Syndrome. Additionally, they should update colleagues on changes to policy and procedures that the pandemic has caused.


Internal communications
Following re-induction, good internal communication is essential to ensuring dispersed teams maintain a collective sense of belonging. Coupled with a robust wellbeing policy that can act as a safety net to catch those who may fall, continued engagement, monitoring and measurement of engagement, and satisfaction will be essential in ensuring employee happiness.


Embracing flexible work models
There are many benefits to flexible working arrangements, both for employer and employee - from attracting better talent from a wider geographical area and improved job satisfaction, to reduced absenteeism and increased employee loyalty.

Research from the CIPD revealed that UK employers expect the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis to double – from 18 per cent before the pandemic to 37 per cent thereafter. A recent IoD survey showed that over 60 per cent of organisations planned to adopt hybrid working and that 63 per cent of business leaders intended to shift towards one to four days of remote working per week post-pandemic.


Rebuilding a company culture built on trust
A report by the BBC has identified that after a year of remote working, we now trust our colleagues less than before. This isn’t surprising when an output of Home Comfort Syndrome sees 1 in 10 admitting to having a nap on the sofa while on a conference call.

A YouGov survey for the BBC also identified concerns amongst 50 per cent of senior leaders that creativity in the workplace would be affected by continued remote working.

Business leaders will be tasked with reinvigorating company culture, rebuilding trust, and ensuring productivity across an inevitably scattered workforce. HR and business leaders will need to seed company culture so it that it grows back and be clever in their thinking about creating opportunities for employees to bond and regain trust.


The return to work will no doubt raise some interesting challenges for leaders and HR as workers return from months of home working. But these can be overcome with knowledge, good communications, training, and open-mindedness to make the journey from home back to the workplace a positive one.


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