With the second lockdown well underway and many workers facing continued uncertainty about when they will next be back in the office, the debate about what the future of work looks like for businesses is starting to ramp up.
Earlier this month Standard Life Aberdeen’s new chief, Stephen Bird, launched a passionate attack on the remote working movement, as City leaders continue to grow further apart in their stance on the future of the workplace.
Beth Hampson, Commercial Director, The Argyll Club say’s that Bird’s calls for a return to the office, arguing that “you are not going to change the world by just accepting that everybody’s on a screen”, are amongst the most strident we’ve heard of late. His concerns about how long-term home working cannot match the office’s role in training up the next generation and sparking new ideas strikes a chord with those who miss the collaboration and creativity of offices.
However, we need to stop thinking about the future of work as either being office or home based, and instead collaborate to find longer term, hybrid solutions that are tailored to business needs.
As we move towards the New Year, and with the hint of a vaccine on the horizon, we need to work together to restore the thriving ecosystem of the City and help businesses get back on their feet. Future-proofing flexible work models sooner rather than later will be crucial to staying ahead of the curve and ensuring workplace culture can prosper safely in the months ahead.
Is home working right for everyone?
Remote working has proven largely effective for businesses with an established team. However, for younger, growing businesses attempting to recruit, on-board and retain staff remotely, home working isn’t always the brilliant wellness movement that headlines would have us believe. In fact, recent stats from Opinium revealed that 62% of workers have struggled with their mental health over the past year, with 26% finding working from home has negatively affected their mental health.
The Government’s current guidelines to work from home “if you can” acknowledges that, for some workers, working from their homes for the foreseeable is less than ideal. In response to this demand, growing enterprises in the capital are finding ways to safely meet in the longer term, with the office market evolving in turn.
The future is in hybrid
We saw the start of this evolution after the first lockdown, with members desperate to reconnect with colleagues using our spaces two or three times a week. In September and October, demand for co-working products increased by 25% as our members sought places to meet beyond their screens. When support from your team is needed, there is no substitute for the office.
Going forwards, many workers want the flexibility to get together when needed and to ensure this is time well spent. The solution? Day offices, which allow a business to shed the financial ties of a lease but retain the benefits of a private office. It is these types of innovative hybrid models that were born in the wake of the first lockdown, and that can allow employees to seamlessly transition between home and office.
When using a day office, deploying simple yet effective strategies like using business lounges for brainstorms; phone booths for private calls; and coworking spaces for team projects, can provide the answer for those dreaming of quality face-to-face time or just looking to focus in calming surroundings.
But, in addition to this, the office can no longer be just a desk and a chair, as the home can provide this now. Professionals are increasingly on the hunt for a ‘one-stop-shop’ – a well-designed, safe space that, as well as a place to work, offers the chance to catch-up with teammates, eat and drink. Whilst this shift to view the workplace as more experience-led predates the pandemic, it has certainly been accelerated over the past few months and will be increasingly important for workers after months away from the buzz of city centres.
What works for you?
The benefits of flexible working are clear, and employees will, quite rightly, demand more from their workspaces going forwards. Businesses who stick with a traditional approach and don’t capitalise on new flexible workplace destinations in response to the changing needs of their workforce will fall behind.
Debating whether the future of the work lies in the office or home misses the point: the future of the workplace is what works for you and your business. It’s about agreeing at the outset which activities – unique to your business – cannot be completed effectively from home. Utilising Covid-secure day offices for instance, particularly for SMEs looking for flexible solutions, can help strike a healthy balance between home and office. Rather than casting a hardline ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote about the future of work, consider what really makes your business tick.
Flexible working is undoubtedly here to stay. The future of work is not full-time office or home working, but rather will be shaped by hybrid, bespoke working solutions. The City must come together to work towards this collaborative, long-term goal and help growing businesses get back on their feet.