Heading Back to the Office

June 29, 2021 ProgressionHR

Why flexible working is the way forward

When COVID-19 turned our world upside-down, many office-based employees had to adapt to working from home. But now, with countries (and offices) beginning to re-open, a new challenge has cropped up.

A number of big corporates who were expecting their staff to come back into office, are now facing resistance from employees who prefer to work at home.

American investment bank, Goldman Sachs was one such company. They took matters into their own hands – dictating that staff were required to return to the office. Another big bank, Morgan Stanley, didn’t go that far, but issued a tough message that clearly set out similar expectations.

So with all of the conversation around this, we thought there’s no better time to look at this issue, its consequences and some solutions.

What we see in the current market.

Employers… please take note!

As recruitment specialists who are ‘in the trenches’, we are seeing more and more employees placing flexibility at the top of their wishlist.

Considering the appeal of working from home – this trend is understandable and likely to increase.

Which means companies that stick to traditional ‘office’ based structure run the risk of attracting employees from a smaller pool of talent.

On the flipside, organisations that embrace flexible ways of working, now have a golden opportunity to reap the rewards for years to come.

Say hello to the ‘hybrid’ workplace.

With COVID lockdowns behind us (fingers crossed), many companies have chosen to go down the ‘hybrid’ workplace route.

What exactly does ‘hybrid’ mean? In a nutshell, it’s best described as flexi-hours, flexi-location, or a combination of both.

Overseas, well-known companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Fujitsu, have officially announced permanent ‘hybrid’ policies. In the Asia Pacific region, Microsoft adopted hybrid work arrangements after seeing that productivity was maintained regardless of where employees worked.

Closer to home, Christchurch-based software company Jade, set a policy where staff are expected to be in its five global offices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The other three days, they can choose where they want to work.

All great examples of how the hybrid model can work.

Rise of the co-working space.

The shift to flexible working has increased the demand for flexible workspaces – places that offer a range of options from a basic ‘hot desk’ to monthly memberships that include office space, meeting facilities and networking opportunities.

Small businesses no longer have to commit to long leases.

While big companies are snapping up co-working space too – as they no longer require the large floorplans they’ve traditionally filled. Instead they’re taking co-working space for 20 or more employees who might spend 3 days in the office and 2 days at home.

There’s also been a big demand for people who simply needed a break from home – the isolation, distractions and lack of human contact we’ve mentioned being the big driver.

What are the benefits of the hybrid work model?

  • Happier staff (who stay longer)
    Providing a flexible work environment is a key to attracting and keeping quality employees. And providing a choice makes employees feel valued and in-control.
  • Higher productivity
    A natural flow-on from the above – happy, motivated staff will be more engaged and more likely to get through more/better quality work.
  • Reduced costs
    Less office space means lower rental costs, plus savings in other areas such as office supplies and parking. Meanwhile employees can save and spend less time and money on commuting.
  • Greater collaboration
    Adoption of video call software has meant that employees no longer need to be in the same room to collaborate. Although it’s not quite the same – scattered employees can feel they are working together.

Nobody likes being ‘told’ what to do.

There’s no doubt, more and more companies will face the challenge of changing work habits. Moving towards a more flexible workplace will be easy for some. For others (such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley), the process may be a rough ride.

Our advice is to frame the way you communicate your workplace policy.

Nobody likes being told what to do – so if you’d prefer to people work in the office – talk about your concern that ‘staff will begin to lose that human connection or that your quality of work will diminish without the ideas that come from face-to-face collaboration’.

The isolation of staff may also affect staff development – particularly among junior staff who don’t have senior staff/mentors to call on.

By talking about the ‘big picture’, any workplace transition might just be that little bit easier. Good luck!

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