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Lockdown Lessons – Is flexible working the new norm?

sue cooke

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To kickstart our series of Lockdown Lessons blogs, the 3M BIC’s CEO Sue Cooke considers whether firms will shift working practices post-pandemic or if innovations in flexible working will become the norm.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a testing time for many businesses, with many fighting for survival. Numerous firms had to adapt quickly to introduce new ways of working in response to the March lockdown, and as it could be another 12 months before things resume to normality, this has prompted much debate as to which of the changes will be adopted for the longer term.

As we reflect on how well the changes we have implemented have worked (or not) as the lockdown eases, businesses, including the 3M BIC, are having to consider what alterations they will adopt for the future.

Flexible working

Flexible working was accelerated to limit the number of people in offices, therefore working from home became the norm for many.

Introducing more flexible working has been a hot topic for many years, but it seems that the global pandemic threw the business community into the deep-end and provided the opportunity to trial it. And has it worked?

It has certainly proved that employees, in the majority of cases, can be set up to work from home and trusted to work efficiently. It has also provided those with families or other dependents with much more flexibility, helping with childcare issues and school holidays over the longer term.

Adapting offices

Business are having to re-evaluate how they work and make changes to their usual working practices. Limiting numbers, introducing safety measures in the office and considering how and when employees travel to work are all things that businesses need to consider to keep staff safe and well.

Some businesses are also realising that if they do adopt more flexible working, do they really need large office spaces if half the workforce works from home 50% of the time? Others are considering giving up offices altogether, just having everyone work from home and/or using satellite or co-working spaces that may be closer to home for staff.

How it has worked for us

At the 3M BIC, we introduced a skeleton team at the beginning of lockdown to keep the centre open for our lab and workshop tenants, whilst enabling those based in office spaces, such as our own marketing team and other colleagues to work from home (WFH), via laptops and remote access to our systems.

As a team this has worked well. We have kept in touch through regular social calls once a week via Zoom or Teams and had team meetings by video call.

It has also given us the opportunity to take a step back and refine our offering, firm up our strategy for the next 12 months and adapt to a new normal when it comes to hosting events and meetings within the centre, as well as how we can support businesses making changes to their own product offer and working practices.

Whilst many of our team will remain working from home for the foreseeable, we are introducing a phased return for some, and have safety measures in place to ensure our staff are kept safe in the workplace.

Regardless of how long this pandemic lasts, it seems to me that many of the changes introduced have transformed how businesses function and will certainly be adopted over the long-term.

How has your business adapted to the pandemic?  Share them @3mbic or on LinkedIn.

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