I watched a fascinating vodcast on the BBC Ideas site last week, by author & podcaster Bruce Daisley, all about the role of the office moving forward and whether office life, such as that which existed in the classic call centre environment pre-lockdown, would ever be the same again once this pandemic is history and we’re all living in the new World of Work – WOW!
According to Antony Slumbers, workplace property expert and digital strategist, most companies never wanted an office in the first place – they wanted productive employees and the office was just one way to achieve that result.
And it seems many employers have got their wish during the COVID-19 crisis, with 80% of staff wanting to continue working at least 1 day a week from home once this global madness has subsided, while 2 out of 3 of us long to return to the office in some form in the future.
It seems we want to have our cake and eat it!
And now we CAN!
And so can our employers, if the latest research is to be believed….
The Times journalist Robin Millar says that the flexible working genie is now out of the bottle and employers should be embracing it with open arms. Why? Because it can serve them almost as beneficially as it can serve their staff.
Flexible working practices, such as start & finish times to fit around school drop-off and pick-up times; shortened lunch or stretch breaks (or none at all) to create an additional half or full day’s holiday or even 12 hour days to consolidate a normal 35 hour week into 3 days, is becoming more and more normal in the new workplace landscape.
Flexibility of approach (or pivoting as the buzz word appears to be) has been a necessity for many companies over the last 6 months, not only in order to operationally survive this pandemic, but also as a means of maintaining their staff’s emotional health and wellbeing, in order to keep casualties to a minimum.
And this flexible approach has worked (and continues to work) for both parties, with some super success stories being reported in the press and across the various social media platforms, talking of increased productivity, enhanced employee engagement scores and an emotionally healthier and happier workforce in general.
WOW! Seems that it’s true then – we all really can have our cake and eat it!
It’s not all sunshine & sangria however….it seems the office environment was actually a very good place for another kind of productivity ‘back in the day’. Such as Informal, chance encounters with colleagues, where we could stimulate creative thinking and bounce ideas off each other, stirring up a pot of innovative ways to improve and enhance our existing operational practices or methods of approach.
Professor Sandy Pentland from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology thinks that these chance encounters are the product of what he refers to as the ‘network effect’ which we’ve been sadly lacking since the pandemic took over our working world.
He says these AHA! moments happen because when employees are unsupervised in this way, they feel more open and honest and freer to share their thoughts and feelings and ideas with others.
Kinda’ makes sense doesn’t it?
So the office IS good for some things and if this new WOW! is not going to feature a permanent base from which we’ll collectively work in the future, then what’s the answer to ensuring our staff remain open and honest and free to share their ideas and thoughts, so that they continue to stimulate those AHA! moments while they’re at work?
The TW and T Revolution, as it’s becoming known – where workers come into the office on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but work from home on a Monday and Friday, seems to be taking the World of Work by storm right now.
However, following swiftly at its heels is the swanky new ‘Asynchronous Working’ whereby the more adventurous employers are allowing their staff to work at times when they feel most productive.
When we do something synchronously, it means we’re coordinated in time – just like those synchronised swimmers at the Olympics. Asynchronous working, on the other hand, is where we allow employees to share their ideas and give their feedback and input when the time is right for THEM, not the business and when THEY feel most inspired.
And of course, that time is different for all of us – some of us are at our best first thing in the morning and others come alive late in the day, when we feel more able to produce our very best work.
It’s a good thing to have a mixture of puppy dogs and night owls working collaboratively and it seems, an asynchronous approach to our new World of Work COULD be the answer to attracting the very best people for the job in the future.
Then come the real early adopters, who are taking asynchronicity to a whole new level, introducing ‘Hybrid Working’ whereby employees will be encouraged to only get together for ONE WEEK per QUARTER, meaning those companies will most certainly NOT need an office in the future.
One thing does appear certain post-COVID and that is the era of getting up every day to travel to the same place every day will become a thing of the past – and I wonder….“will you miss it?”
It seems to me I’m getting a resounding NO from everyone I’m talking to, although there’s a caveat – as long as flexible working continues to evolve to suit the people who are representing the employer, as their Brand Ambassadors and NOT for the benefit of the employer trying to bleed their workers dry and squeeze as much productivity out of them any which way
Call me old fashioned, but in my day this way of working was called Flexi-Time and it was as popular as the old Luncheon Voucher (or LV’s as they were known) we used to receive as part of our employee benefits package!
When I worked for Bupa back in the 70s, I’d save up my flexi-time until I could get a whole extra DAY off work and it felt like I’d won the crown jewels every time I earned a 3 day weekend.
Still, they say everything is cyclical and what goes around comes around, don’t they?
So, who knows – give it another so-many years and we could see the daily commute to that brick-built office during rush hour making a real comeback!
For now, enjoy having your cake and eating it
Until next time – stay safe and keep FIT!