Returning back to work

Zurina Panesar | 18 May 2021 | News | General

As we begin to see light at the end of a very long tunnel, Head of Transforming Operations, Mark Turner, shares his thoughts on the recent Government announcement and the possibility of returning back to our usual workplaces.

It was interesting to hear Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirming to parliament on 12th May that the government’s work from home guidance may end on 21st June. I acknowledge that since this announcement another degree of uncertainty has evolved as we have learned about the Indian variant but it’s incredible when you think that by this date, lockdown and homeworking in its various guises will have been part of our lives for 15 months since it all started on 23rd March 2020. However, with this renewed hope, a key question is whether UK workers are ready and comfortable in returning to their offices and re-establishing these locations as their normal place of work?

There is of course no easy or single answer to this question, it is going to vary by location, industry, job role, age and many other factors too. I’ve spent my professional life working in back offices and call centres of all shapes and sizes, across a multitude of industries in the UK and everyone has its own unique culture and set of dynamics which have been intrinsic to their past success.

The increased awareness and actions by many organisations to support the wellbeing of their people is one of the better outcomes from this lockdown period. I read recently that 14 of the UK’s largest employers have pledged to put the wellbeing of staff, local communities and broader society higher on the boardroom agenda, after concluding it will enhance the long-term profitability of their businesses. It will be good to see how these pledges develop as we are all far more effective and creative when we are in a positive frame of mind.

It doesn’t matter if you are leading a small single location team where everyone is happy to be back in the office, or responsible for thousands of employees, across multiple sites with a diverse range of comfort and desire to return to the workplace, a quote from former American baseball catcher Yogi Berra, seems strangely appropriate, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Bruce Daisley who hosts an excellent podcast, ‘Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat’ has shared some stories about how different companies have been more creative in their thinking about their team members returning to the office in order to optimise and enhance their wellbeing. Rather than a much talked about hybrid model, which maybe unscheduled and left to individual preference, he talks about some interesting discoveries from two different businesses when they agreed specific periods when the whole team would all be in the office, to work, eat and laugh together. He references Brené Brown and her research into the benefits we feel when we experience emotions together and how this creates a ‘collective effervescence’.

The question about the readiness of people to return to the office remains relevant although this should be considered alongside how creatively and dynamically individual businesses are reviewing their operating model in order to enhance this. Binary options or total flexibility both appear attractive on the back of the many learns during the past year, but even these come with a risk of becoming stale in the future.

There is unfortunately no clear answer as to what businesses and organisations need to do to. What works for one business may not work for another. We have all lived through this together and have no doubt benefitted by tailoring ideas to best suit our own needs. So, In the spirit of ‘collective effervescence’, what are your plans to optimise the wellbeing of your people to enhance your organisations future success?

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