Given how quickly many of the UK’s roughly 33 million employees transitioned to home working, bumps and all, the learning was rapid and in some respects an eye opener. Whatever your view there’s no escaping the consensus opinion that the workplace (and UK generally) is unlikely to return to what it was pre-lockdown any time soon.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Employers and leaders have learned to adapt, iterate fast, and we’ve seen a change in direction for many leaders who were left grappling with an unclear change agenda and heightened ambiguity shaping their decisions. For employees, the challenge of maintaining work-life balance has grown with a significant percentage of people citing increased childcare responsibilities and a general difficulty in maintaining balance at home due to extended working hours. and blurred working hours Out of this have come a growing number of reports of mental health concerns, and a sage reminder of the importance of maintaining our wellbeing needs.
In my daily conversations, I’m hearing mixed views of employees looking to return to the office at the earliest opportunity, to those who are open to a blended / flexible working arrangements, and others who have found working from home more productive and effective.
For leaders and organisations generally, this can be a somewhat confronting prospect as they set out the plan to return the business to a post-lockdown format.
Flexibility, wellbeing and balance are critical considerations for workplace design – whether we call our office home, or prefer the corporate tower. Putting this into perspective, the concept of the workplace (give or take a few aesthetic changes) hasn’t significantly changed in more than 50 years, which means for the vast majority of us there is no frame of reference to draw on to create a comfort layer for our people that redefining the model is a good thing.
There are a number of dimensions to redefining the workplace brief – adjusting the operating model, investment in technology and digital infrastructure to keep the wheels turning and the cyber wolves at bay – and it’s inherently complex. Performance, behavioural expectations and the basis of teamwork and collaborate should also be top of mind to ensure your culture retains its currency and keeps your team engaged and clear on the priorities ahead. Then comes the considerations for implementing a consistent risk management and employee safety infrastructure that extends to home and flexible working arrangements.
Ultimately, the workplace will most likely change. The rush hour may become a thing of the past, and the reality check is that for many of us when it comes to work, there’s no place like home.