We predict 2022 could be marked by difficult discussions and potentially even employment disputes.

Understanding how the world of work should operate post Covid is not a straightforward matter. Whilst some employers have nailed their colours to the mast very publicly in terms of a return to the office, our discussions in the London market suggest the situation is much more nuanced for the leadership teams and HR departments of London market insurers.

We predict 2022 could be marked by difficult discussions and potentially even employment disputes. It should also trigger important strategic decisions for businesses keen to determine not just how they emerge from COVID19, but how they want to structure their businesses for smooth and efficient working five or even ten years hence.

Many terms emerged to describe ways of working through the pandemic – flexible, hybrid, alternative, independent… the list goes on.

While some work forces are familiar with such terms and may tend to believe such models have proved their worth and should be perpetuated; those sentiments are not held equally strongly elsewhere, with some holding a more traditional view that is keen to see staff working on the company premises. These differences cross territories, sectors, and even businesses themselves.

Confronting such differences raises some interesting questions:

  • What work pattern is most productive and efficient for the business?
  • How do those who want to work flexibly outside of core or ‘normal’ office hours achieve that if local laws or company policies prevent communication outside of certain times?
  • Is anyone being encouraged to work when perhaps they should not be as a result of the attraction and ease of flexible working (for instance when ill)?
  • How do employers avoid anyone who is absent from the workplace missing or losing out on interactions which occur naturally in the workplace, and which may mean that they do not have the same opportunities for progression?
  • How effectively can employers manage their duty of care and health and safety requirements across the thousands of different workplaces that working from home creates?
  • Do government requirements that certain classes of worker (for example health and social care) be vaccinated set a precedent for other industries? How do employers handle these complex questions and decisions?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ or ‘right’ response to these questions. Employers who can navigate these complex discussions sensibly, reasonably, and successfully, however COVID-19 evolves, could engineer competitive advantages in retaining and attracting staff, but the complex and fast-moving situation suggests that disputes and issues may well arise.