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How has COVID-19 effected our working pattern? Tearing up the work rule book.

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tear up rulebook

In an instant the world had to work from home.. 

OK, so it may not have been that fast.. but it did happen VERY quickly!

Following the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 lockdown, we went from recognising a 'normal day' as a daily commute followed by hours sat at our desks (or having meetings - in actual meeting rooms) and leaving around 5ish..

... to something very different.

There was a complete abandonment of traditional working practices.  The rule book was chewed up and spat out in a matter of days.  


Profound long-term change & the new (work from home) normal 

Attitudes, expectations and behaviour had to adapt to new ways of working and suddenly we could do jobs from home which were previously thought impossible.

The sudden shift from (mostly) on-site, to 100% remote working, challenged organisational processes and resource to the full, yet most organisations responded positively, and with agility, implementing vital tech solutions to enable staff to successfully carry out their jobs from home.  

However, according to Flexa, only 30% of the UK workforce had ever worked from home before so the impact on businesses who "found themselves ill-equiped" to deal with such a shift was great.

Work from home 

Image Unsplash Charles Deluvio

Many employees found themselves sat at a makeshift desk in their kitchen, lounge or bedroom - computer on and mobile phone at the ready (if they were lucky) and logging on to something called Zoom (or similar). A LOT. 

They were expected to take care of young children (or home-school older ones), deal with the panic-buying and queues for groceries and cope with the lack of social contact with family and friends - all whilst holding down their job.

Kudos!

Work-life was transformed, and businesses progressed years ahead of the projected 'work from home' curve.


The extraordinary revolution in working practices fully enabled the accelerated digital transformation we see happening today.


Digital transformation was of course happening anyway (look at all that happened in ecommerce for a start), but business survival during "lockdown 2020" called for immediate, ground-breaking change. 

Ecommerce went through the roof as people were suddenly in need of essential tech, white goods and groceries... or even a new boxset or bike to keep them sane - all purchased online. New businesses were set up and digital skills were in demand - even recruitment was taken online.   


The benefits of long-term flexible working

There is no doubt that agile working is a great benefit.  

Wellbeing

The potential for greater work-life balance, happier more productive employees, increased job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism. 

“There’s no question that lockdown has done away with presenteeism. It’s shown many business leaders that their people can be productive, engaged and happy working from home.” Kevin Ellis, the PwC chairman

“Rethinking the rulebook on flexibility will ultimately prove a huge shot in the arm for productivity in the long term,” Emma Holden, Schroders

Financial

Employees can make significant savings on travel and eating out.

Office Space

There is potential for businesses to reduce spend on property leasehold. 

54% of employees worldwide were already spending "half the week working somewhere other than their company’s main office locations." (Regus 2017)

“As more of our colleagues are able to work flexibly and remotely, we are becoming less reliant on office space... and also the type of office space we will need in the future is likely to change to reflect changing working styles." (Lloyds Banking Group/The Guardian)

Environmental

Carbon emissions are significantly reduced with fewer cars on the roads and minimal public transport. 

Competitive Edge

Businesses can attract staff from a wider talent pool when they offer more flexible working arrangements.


Embracing agile working

50% of jobs at Facebook will be remote within 10 years.

Twitter is letting almost all its global workforce work-from-home forever.

Global law firm Slater and Gordon has given up its London office.

Schroders, JP Morgan and Linklaters has said that staff can continue to work flexibly indefinitely.

NatWest Group and Standard Life Aberdeen announced that most staff will not be returning to the office until early 2021.


The pitfalls of flexible working

Whilst a high proportion of people seem to have fully embraced the new work-from-home culture, there are clear pitfalls which need to be addressed.

Wellbeing & Mental Health Concerns

The rapid evolution of agile working has meant the boundaries between office and home have become increasingly blurred. With many people working longer hours than ever before, we are now witnessing a mental health crisis - begging the question - are you working from home or living at work?

Burnout nikko macaspac 6SNbWyFwuhk unsplash.jpg

Image Unsplash Nikko Macaspac

Ineffective Long Term Communication

The ability to have face to face conversations, share expertise and learn from each other is vital.  Those little conversations you overhear and pick-up on can be completely missed when there is no 'actual' connection. 

Economical Effect

London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has recognised that " empty offices in London are already causing a major problem for the struggling economy, with homeworkers not needing to spend money on travel, food or going out in London...” and the the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Baily has encouraged companies to get staff back to their offices to help revive the faltering British economy. (The Guardian)


Balance will be the key to success

Like anything in life balance is key... and it won't be long before we need to address, that actually, there is a clear lack of work-life balance for a huge proportion of working individuals.

Those blurred lines will, in the end, require clarity.. and balance will be restored.

unbalanced


So, what does our future workspace look like?

As many company buildings stand empty we need to ask ourselves if big corporate HQ's and offices are still relevant.  

Employees no longer seem to want the traditional office they once enjoyed - and the new flexible work arrangements they've enjoyed up to now look set to stay for many businesses.  

Now is the time to reshape our concept of the office.  

100% home working will not work for every individual or every business and there will be an appetite for a middle ground.  There needs to be a solution which provides work-life balance (using clear boundaries to protect staff and their wellbeing) alongside the need for teams to collaborate effectively and maintain business productivity, all whilst supporting the economy.


Work will be more about what you do and less about where you do it! 


It's time for a work-place re-vamp!  

Many of us work best within a variety of workplace environments so why not have a mix and match scenario.  

With landlords currently seeing their office buildings empty, there are huge possibilities in changing their usage to attract workers who want something different. 

Of course, flexible workspaces already exist with the likes of WeWork (amongst others) but can this go even further?

"Imagine going to work (locally) in a creative hub full of artists, architects, media and advertising professionals; or a tech workspace full of developers, I.T and data specialists. Would you learn something new?  Hell yes!  And would it satisfy the need for contact, conversation, learning and networking?  Yep!  And could you do the same with your own colleagues and boss?  Of course! Now mix this with working from home and you can still make those confidential phone calls, be there for a gas man and take in next-doors delivery."

Patrick Tame 

The new age is upon us....  what would be your preference?


Supporting Articles

Lloyds reviews use of office space amid homeworking trend (The Guardian)

Coronavirus: British workers lag behind Europeans in returning to the office (The Times)

Why workers in some countries are more comfortable about returning to the office | Free to read (FT)

Workspace transformation in a digital age (2018 Deloitte)

How To Reclaim Time And Find Balance In Your Workday (Forbes)

9 Signs You Have No Work-Life Balance (Forbes)

Working from home and feel like you’re working all the time? Here’s what to do  (Ideas TED)


Original post September 2020

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