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To be or not to be (back at the office)? That is the Question

To be or not to be (back at the office)? That is the Question 41

By Giles Watkins and Marcus Chipchase, Directors of Tinderbox 

“The one thing we know for certain, the one constant in the world, is change”. 

There is nothing new in this, yet many of us are taken by surprise by change, when we shouldn’t be – the world has been changing since time began.

We are in the heart of probably the biggest crisis to hit health and business in living memory. One thing is for sure, this too will pass – the economy will pick up again, and so will the business opportunities with it. At some stage it will boom. Maximising your business performance in the economic rebound by driving growth will take strong leadership and management skills. Especially in the area of getting the most from your biggest asset – your people.

As the FT wrote on 19 June, “Legions of Goldman Sachs bankers returned to its Manhattan headquarters this week, as the first of the big banks called back staff from remote working. They must disclose whether they have been vaccinated. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley’s boss mused that if his underlings are happy to eat at restaurants, they should be happy to come into the office” This approach contrasts starkly with some non-US headquartered banks. “Société Générale, which reopened its Paris office this week, will allow bankers to work from home three days a week; HSBC is yet to set an office-return date and is planning on extended flexible working. These differing approaches, while dictated also by cultural mores, domestic employment law and vaccination rates, show that even among the same sector there is disagreement about the right level of office attendance.”

Remoteness Becomes the Norm 

Vistage’s research just publish suggests that only “26% of businesses are considering an entirely remote working setting, with 17% likely to remain office-based, and 57% considering a hybrid of the two” 

This reaffirms that remote working will remain part of the current and future business profile. Hence the resulting need for strong leadership and management, and especially people management skills, is going to be even more important to your business success.

We are moving into a new era where remoteness – and remote working – are going to be part of everyday business life. Remote working as part of a truly agile business can reap substantial rewards in terms of efficiency, productivity and profitability if handled and managed well. 

Powerful leadership and strong management is, and will be, required to realise these potentially huge rewards and create a high performing team. 

The converse of this is where teams and individuals will work remotely and are not led or managed appropriately. Typically this results in a downturn in business performance and a significant reduction in retention of key people.

This is not a new concept. Organisations like Price Waterhouse Cooper studied their agility a few years ago. This led to remote working and hot desking being part of a raft of new policies and procedures. Those that got it right saved a huge amount in office and travel costs plus reduced down time. They became significantly more profitable as a result. 

What purpose does an office now serve?

As reported in The Economist 26th June, until a year ago the office was the ‘locus of all business activity’. It accommodated all professional, and some social, interaction. But now we know differently. Many reports have shown that the majority of employees feel they can be more productive working from home. These findings have led to companies re-visiting the requirement for a permanent office. 

Google has announced they will experiment with a flexible working week where those without heavy customer facing roles will come into the office for only three days. These ‘in office’ days will be for collaboration, allowing the employees to work from home the other weekdays without distraction.

Companies will now need to consider their old space, whether downsizing is necessary and possible. This could free up funds which could be used for new technology and to improve employee wellbeing.

What do you need to consider?

Previously many have been in the mindset of working from home being part of a ‘temporary solution’, a reaction to the pandemic. We now need to shift into a state of relative permanence, acknowledging that the world of work and employee expectations have significantly changed. All business owners require a strategic shift to embed these new ways of working. Important questions to reflect on include: 

  • Which staff need to work together?
  • What type of space do these employees need?
  • What is the new routine for each team?
  • Do they need extra equipment?
  • What additional support do managers need?
  • What additional training is required?

The new hybrid approach

Some employees will have thrived at home, whereas others will be keen to return to the office. In this respect a hybrid approach will create a potentially more enjoyable experience for all? Only if managed correctly.

This is a Sponsored Feature.

 

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