Wrapping up COVID-19 Workplace Forums

There was great participation and engaged dialogue during our two recent COVID-19 client forums.

While we reflected on the crisis, we also discussed a range of different topics including the possible death of the five-day work week, the purpose of place, and the war for talent.

Following these forums, Evodia Alaterou, Domino Risch, and Nathan Bell reflected on what was discussed and broke these down into key points. Have a listen to some of the dialogue and discussions that came out of the forums here.

Date

July 09, 2020

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  • We have seen that it is possible for people to work from home and be productive. While over 40% of the participants in the forums are comfortable in their team working fluidly across seven days a week, people are not rushing into implementing it.
  • There are concerns in blurring the boundary between work life and personal life too much, and how to get consensus on what is normal and conformity in approach. From managing clients’ expectations to balancing family needs.
  • People need to have structure and rhythm, especially the younger ones, although the structure might be one that is different from the past.
  • If we were to change to a seven-day work week, we need to have a clear understanding not only of why and what we are doing, but also the role we are playing and the rules.
  • Having more fluidity in structure (e.g. different work hours) requires more coordination, more rules of engagement and more communication.
  • Apart from rhythm, people want to have a sense of belonging and sense of connection. If people continue working remotely for too long, they will lose connection.
  • While working from home can allow others to see the human side of us and strengthen certain relationships (e.g. client relationships), it is difficult to build culture with people you work with day-to-day through virtual means only. 
  • Human inertia is not to change. To develop a culture requires us to work harder.
  • Organisation should be supporting and bringing out the best in their people, like family and partners would.
  • It is the rituals that make the culture.
  • Working from home inhibits people, especially the younger ones, from learning by osmosis and getting immediate feedback. It also lengthens the time new employees require to gain confidence.
  • If people work from home more, there may be a need for more formal training which costs more. Talent will be looking for organisations that provide training.
  • There may be more emphasis on knowledge and experience when recruiting, and a possible bias favouring older workers.
  • Some predict AI will eliminate entry level jobs which in turn poses a challenge on how organisations develop careers for junior employees.
  • Currently there are little recruitment activities as there is still so much uncertainty on the economy, its impact on clients and the flow on effect.
  • Working from home has been more challenging for graduates, new employees, and people less confident with their work, people in shared living arrangements and call centre employees. 
  • Some call centre employees struggle working from home as their mental health has been adversely affected by the blurred line between home life and work life, and they don’t have the camaraderie and support they normally get in a call centre environment. Leaders found themselves needing to upskill to manage and support their employees.
  • Some believe there will be class action claims on damage as a result from working from home.
  • To help manage and connect new graduates to the organisation, one law firm allows their graduates to join into client meetings as observers. Feedback on this arrangement has been positive.
  • The role of leaders has changed. In addition to meeting KPIs and ensuring the business is running, leaders now also need to take on a caring role which they have not been trained in. 
  • Some believe economics will always come first in leaders’ decision making process, however it is important to overlay the economic side with the human side.
  • Now that we have been working from home for nearly four months, it will take a period of time for us to get back into the habit of working in office.
  • How do you deal with situations where employees refuse to come into the office?
  • There is the dilemma on roles that need to be in the office vs those that can work from home.
  • We moderate our behaviour to the type of space.
  • Giving the freedom, the majority of people would choose to stay where they are, few would consider spending more time working from another location (ie. in the country or from overseas)
  • The experience in the last few months have allowed companies to think about different ways of working.
  • Going forward we cannot fall back to benchmark, but there are questions on what the decision process should be for future workplaces. Different companies have taken different approaches.
  • One company described they have gone through 5 years of change in just a few months. 83% of their employees say they have changed the way they work. While the company doesn’t know how everything will play out, they are considering implementing a formal flexibility process.
  • However there is also fear of leaders making haste decisions and releasing rental space prematurely.
  • There is a general feeling workplaces will be less about desks but more about collaboration and celebration.
  • It is also important to keep in mind that rent is only a small portion of the total cost.
  • Some believe the cycle of lease will start to drive the decision.

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