Working from home has helped boost productivity, not skiving, in many firms and looking after staff well-being could see further improvements – David Harper

The pandemic altered almost every aspect of working life. It changed where people worked, what they wore and what they did during their breaks.

Cynics thought working from home would damage productivity, but if anything it has increased (Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

It even affected what time they got up in the morning and the hour at which they sat down for dinner.

But another, more gradual, transition also took place with the relationship of trust between managers and their co-workers.

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Suddenly, there was no opportunity to be in the same room as their team or to hold face-to-face meetings. Even now, some people relatively new to a job haven’t even met those they work with. And, perhaps against all the odds, it worked.

The worst fears of cynics, that people would sit at home with their feet up twiddling their thumbs, didn’t play out. If anything, everyone became even more productive. At go-centric, our colleagues stepped up to the plate in spectacular style, constantly going that extra mile for customers, and delivering phenomenal results in the process.

That positive experience has been mirrored across various sectors of differing sizes, all over Scotland, the UK and indeed the world.

Now that things are beginning to look like returning to some form of normal, it’s time for companies to repay that loyalty.

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Employee well-being needs to be prioritised like never before, especially given there has been such little opportunity for physical interaction since March 2020.

There are many things that businesses and organisations can do to ensure the colleagues who got us all through lockdown can now be nurtured through whatever follows.

We’ve all heard of first aiders in the workplace – someone we can turn to in a medical emergency knowing they are trained in at least the basics, and who can make all the difference in a variety of situations while more dedicated help is on the way.

Well, we are training up mental health first aiders to perform a similar role. These individuals will look out for those they work with, and will be contact points for colleagues in need of someone to talk to or consult.

They will then be able to point people who are going through difficult times to the right place to get the help they need.

The scheme also helps build the skillset of those who take part, and initial signs are indicating that it is a considerably rewarding use of their time.

On top of that, we have embarked on a partnership with Lifelink, a charity which works with children and adults to improve their mental health.

This is a duty of care that any employer has towards those who work with them. And if anyone needs further persuasion, there are clear benefits for the business involved too.

After all, a more contented workforce will also be a more productive and successful one.

Since the Covid crisis hit our shores, there have been encouraging signs that Scottish firms are taking the welfare of their teams more seriously than ever.

Businesses across Scotland are increasingly aware of the well-being of their workforce when it comes to modelling the future.

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 businesses, 88.7 per cent of those moving to a permanent hybrid future said they were doing so because they thought it would enhance employee well-being.

Around a quarter also acknowledged the blended approach helped to reduce sickness levels, while more than half said they had noted an increase in productivity from the home-working trend of the last 20 months.

What’s more, the professionalism and performance of workers has left business confidence in a good place.

More businesses are optimistic now for the future than at any point since the outbreak of the pandemic, a testament to those who have kept the show on the road through the most difficult times.

At go-centric, we pride ourselves in supporting people into work, with a recent survey finding that 35 per cent of new employees had been made redundant from their previous role. We are continuing to explore what more we can do to support young people and people experiencing long-term unemployment.

We’ve also received our Living Wage Employer accreditation, ensuring that salaries reflect the value we place on our team, as well as the recognising what has been delivered through such a tough period.

The role of big organisations in the community has been something to consider in the last 20 months. The commitment of workers didn’t just stop at the end of their shift.

All over Scotland, thousands got involved in a variety of community efforts in their neighbourhoods, ensuring that vulnerable people remained safe, and that some form of enjoyment could continue for those who were suffering so badly from social exclusion.

And again, as we found with our Viral Kindness Scotland initiative – which mobilised our contact centres to ensure vulnerable people were put in touch with those who could help – that scheme invigorated and rewarded our team.

Many look back now with real pride at projects like that, both for the value they delivered for others but also for the skills gained and the sense of accomplishment they brought.

There’s no doubting that the nurses, carers, emergency workers and the retail staff who barely missed a beat were the heroes of the pandemic.

But the workers who committed so much from home through that difficult period – many of whom were dealing with unprecedented personal challenges of their own – are worthy of celebration too.

Their devotion to various causes needs to be marked and must have an impact on how businesses see and treat their colleagues going forward.

Placing more emphasis than ever before on their well-being is the very least they deserve.

David Harper is chair of Glasgow-based contact centre go-centric

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