Planning For Success After COVID-19: Ways Of Working

2021-03-18 |  Ruari Scullion

What's changing?

In August last year we wrote about how the pandemic had forced companies into remote working on a scale never seen before. At that time our focus was on planning for the eventual return to the office and how ways of working could change in the longer term.

Now seven months on, we’re in the third lockdown of the pandemic. But this time it’s different. Not just because the country now has a clear route out of the current situation, but because almost all organisations are now planning for a different way of working when the country opens up in June.

Almost all. There are a few notable exceptions. The CEO of Goldman Sachs described working from home as an ‘aberration’, signalling their intention to return to pre-pandemic working practices as soon as possible.

Even so, most companies are backing up their public statements about moving to long-term flexible working with concrete action.

In the Life Sciences space, Pfizer is training its teams to work remotely and build virtual relationships. In financial services, Société Générale are asking employees to spend 2 days/week in the office, with the remaining time spent working remotely. 

These approaches are similar to those we’re seeing from many of the organisations we’re currently working with.

How will this impact you?

It’s likely that your organisation is thinking about how it will work in the future, about the impact that will have on its employees, and how it might affect its ability to operate in the new working world.

There are certainly implications and questions for organisations that have decided to return to the status quo. 

In a mobile marketplace, how will potential candidates react to being asked to work 4-5 days/week in an office when other employers allow for much more flexibility? Also, will large offices be an efficient use of finances when competitors are reducing property costs?

Moving to flexible working will not be without complications, but there are real opportunities as well as risks.

The opportunities include:

  • Improving employee experience by granting them greater scope to define their own work-life balance.
  • Reducing property costs by removing the need for employees to be physically present in the office.
  • Accessing talent that was previously out of reach geographically.
  • Re-purposing your (remaining) office space to foster creativity, collaboration and engagement.

The risks include:

  • Emerging mental health issues associated with long-term isolated working.
  • An inability to build and foster a strong company culture.
  • The difficulty associated with managing distributed teams.
  • The setup costs to get teams working effectively - including furniture, broadband, IT kit.
  • Security and operational risks associated with teams working remotely.

What do you need to do about it?

The first step is to engage with your employees - build a picture around what’s worked well, what hasn’t, and what their expectations should be for the future.

That information should be combined with management strategy and objectives to establish how you want your employees to work going forward.

Returning to the status quo?

It’s important that you manage employee expectations, explaining the rationale behind your decision, as well as re-engaging and re-energising your people upon their return to work. It’s also likely that you will have to take regular 'temperature checks' about how employees feel about the return to the office.

Taking the plunge with a hybrid working model?

It’s important to engage and communicate with your staff throughout the process to gain buy-in along the journey. Set parameters with employees by developing a working charter, clearly articulating when office time is encouraged or expected, and whenremote working will be the norm.

Remember, it will take time to change the culture.

Making any significant changes to ways of working will have an impact on processes and technology, so expect to re-assess the old ways of doing things, and plan accordingly for a transition period, as new approaches take time to bed in.

How can we help?

We can help you plan the right way of working for your organisation. There are a lot of moving parts – from setting your new strategy to technology implications – and not all organisations should respond in the same way. That’s where we come in. We’ve supported several organisations in identifying what their future ways of working should look like.

PEN are working with many clients to understand how best to approach a post-Covid world, and identifying the best strategies for them.

If this or any of our other related Covid articles interest you then please get in touch with Helen Clark.

Further reading:

The Future Of The Workplace: Re-considering Your Ways Of Working After Covid-19

Location, Location, Location: Is Your Strategy In Place Yet?

Contact Helen Clark:

Email: helen.clark@penpartnership.co.uk

Phone: +44 (0)7585 111 518

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