Since the start of lockdown, businesses have had to adapt how they operate to safeguard employees, limiting numbers in the office and ensuring safe and hassle-free commutes. To adapt to the post-pandemic world, it seems many of these changes are here to stay for the foreseeable.
Here are just some ways the business community has responded to the pandemic to ensure workforces can return to work safely and motivated over the coming months.
- Blend of WFH and office time
Rather than declaring that the future of the office is dead and adopting working from home (WFH) as the default time-saving, rent-saving outcome of the pandemic, should employers be looking for a more nuanced, blended approach which offers the best of both worlds?
We think so and have seen an increase in interest from employees and business contacts who want to operate a mixed model, maybe WFH 2-3 days per week and attend the office 2-3 days per week. Rail companies have recognised this trend and are now adapting to offer flexible, part-time season tickets which will enable this mixed commuting model.
Companies will benefit from a reduced desk-count once hot-desking returns safely. They will trust and benefit from the productivity gains but they will also reimagine ‘in-days’ bringing staff together to exchange ideas, work on joint projects, meet clients face-to-face and brainstorm future developments, all of which will tap into the creativity and social bonding which cements a loyal, inspired workforce who ‘belong’ together.
As Kevin Ellis, Chairman of PwC said recently, office will become “ hub points – for shared learning, innovation, ideas and sociability. People will find different ways of using the office”.
- City commutes vs local satellite spaces
Following this trend, we expect to see the allure of the city-centre HQ/regional office diminish as staff who previously commuted in by train or car from surrounding towns and villages show little appetite to re-join the packed commute 5 days per week, especially when they have enjoyed the fruits of two hours extra family or ‘me-time’ during lockdown.
As a neat alternative to WFH full-time, we expect more companies to establish satellite offices, possibly in locally-based managed workspaces, for their staff who live outside the city to use as a more professional working environment than their kitchen or back bedroom. This offers access to professional meeting rooms, a reception and faster broadband, without the hassle of managing an extra company building.
As an employee benefit it limits the daily two-hour commute to an occasional visit to head office, which could be done outside rush hour, but replaces it with a more time-efficient 15-30 minute drive/cycle/walk or bus journey to a local satellite with all the conditions and technology for effective working with ready access to Zoom/Teams for maintaining contact with colleagues based elsewhere. Plus, the rental cost will be much better value per head outside city centres.
- WFH contracts
Some firms in the South East have latched on to this on an even more radical scale, offering staff WFH contracts, which require only 1-2 days per month presence in the London HQ but otherwise WFH.
This is a game changer for the millennials and generation X-ers who want a London job but can’t afford to live there. They can now envisage a move back to the attractive areas especially in the North where they can afford to buy a property, see their families and yet hop on a train within 2 hours of the capital once a month to catch up with colleagues in person and continue to advance their careers.
- Quality of life for keeps
Those unexpected lockdown pleasures of extra family time, gardening, dog-walking, sourdough baking or whatever has filled the old commute-time, can be maintained and cultivated post-lockdown, with the support of forward-thinking employers who are prepared to shape new ways of working with their teams to create a win-win situation.
This may become a differentiator for talented people seeking the best flexible working deal from prospective employers, so forward-thinking companies will want to sell this blended working model as a benefit – and prospective employees will increasingly demand it.
To hear more about our key insights during the Covid-19 lockdown, check out our Lockdown Lessons series here.