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.