Among the CFOs, CEOs, Chairs and other Board members I have spoken with across a range of sectors, one consistent theme has emerged. People have been very pleasantly surprised by how well colleagues have worked from home in terms of their commitment and productivity.
There was some trepidation among senior figures in finance positions that carrying out year-end work – which normally requires all team members to spend long hours in the office to accomplish – would be challenging. In the event, people rose to that challenge and the process went incredibly smoothly thanks to their dedication, knowledge and some high-quality equipment at home backed by their companies’ IT provision.
People’s commuting times vary but many who travel into London would spend between two and three hours a day doing so; suddenly they have been able to spend that time on other tasks.
As a result, many senior leaders are now much more receptive to the concept of people working from home more regularly in future. They now have proof that business functions can be completed by staff in remote locations.
One consequence of this shift is that, with employees on site for two or three days a week rather than five, clients are questioning the need for their current level of expensive office space. When their leases next come up for renewal, many will seek to reduce space or to negotiate more favourable terms with their landlords.
I notice that Twitter and Google have told their staff they can work from home indefinitely, but most of the clients I have spoken to feel that is a step too far. Undoubtedly, you can communicate adequately on a video call – and I am sure the words “You’re on mute” have been said at least a thousand times by every one of us by now – but there is still value in people being together in person.