The majority of us are now working from home, a feat previously unimaginable. Prior to lockdown, flexible working methods were wholly embraced by some, but by no means all.
Many companies did not have a working from home culture. I’ve worked with a few who like having everyone in the office, often calling impromptu meetings and making instantaneous decisions as they felt it enabled creativity, sharing of ideas and learning opportunities.
Obviously, that’s not possible at the moment – but these companies are still functioning. I spoke to one FTSE 250 Group Financial Controller who, confronted with the need to carry out the year-end review remotely, thought it would be impossible without the team being physically present. In fact, they achieved it well within time with very few issues.
Employers are now asking fundamental questions about their traditional ways of working. Potentially, we will see a major culture shift within such organisations when things go back to whatever ‘normal’ is.
I imagine more employees will want to work from home more often in the future. Management teams will be hard pressed to find reasons not to allow them to do so.
As a result of the current situation, the hope is that people become more empathetic in future with regard to the challenges faced by those with disabilities or any other barriers to ‘conventional’ employment or lifestyle.
Whilst it can be frustrating for people with disability to see people adapting to a more flexible working pattern now that the majority of employees have no alternative, it can also provide hope. In the past it was not seen as straightforward or a necessity – but suddenly things have changed at astonishing speed because we have been forced into a ‘new normal’ and people have seen that it is possible to effect this change and remain efficient.
It will, therefore, be important that when these restrictions are lifted, business leaders should ensure that new flexibility around working is retained and seen as a good thing. This will open up the world of work to a more diverse pool of talent and make the world a better place.
The realisation that businesses can continue to function without everybody being in attendance at all times could, in turn, lead to some new thinking around office space. If you are going to have, say, one-third of your workforce working from home, will you need that big, shiny, expensive central London office? Arguably not. There could be an option to scale down your headquarters and spend money elsewhere in the business. Commercial property and Real Estate companies may need to re-think their business models.