What does an agile workplace mean to you? While the concept has been around for years, the experience of global lockdown has turbo-charged business and employee interest in more flexible ways of working and altered the meaning of work for us all. In the words of Michael Dell, Founder of Dell Technologies, ‘Covid-19 has made one thing clear. Work is something you do, an outcome, not a place or a time’.
For many employees, choosing when and where to work is highly compelling, offering benefits in terms of reduced time and cost of commuting and more flexible childcare. For business leaders, evidence that workforce productivity has not been adversely affected during lockdown, coupled with potential savings from reduced office space, has changed attitudes to agile working. Indeed PwC report that 86% of UK CEOs believe the shift towards remote collaboration will endure.
While working from home and other remote locations has its benefits, it is not without challenges; the long-term impact of working in isolation on employee wellbeing and job satisfaction are, as yet, unknown, and reports of increased vulnerability to cyber hacks and data breaches are continuing to emerge. Equally for businesses that use their office environment as a tool for building brand reputation, driving sales, and attracting and retaining talent, the shift to a totally virtual workplace model may come back to haunt them.
In this uncertain climate, businesses are declaring their hands; Twitter announced that staff can work from home forever, and employees at Google and Facebook expect to work remotely until July 2021, when the companies hope a successful vaccine will be in place. Many are returning to the office, with half of UK workers reporting back to their workplace in the last week of August; City businesses such as Blackstone and Bloomberg have said they will pay for employees worldwide to commute by taxi or drive to work. Others are moving to a hybrid model of office and remote working for the long-term, such as Schroders, who have told staff worldwide that they no longer need to come to the office to work for a certain number of days each week.
Ultimately the solution for post-COVID working is unique to each organisation but one thing is for certain, the agile workplace is not going away and it’s time for business leaders to get off the fence and define new ways of working. If you want to be the winning team, you’ve got to be agile.
We’ll explore more trends in post-COVID working over the coming weeks.