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“Are you ready to return to the office?” and other questions for the future of work

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Last week marked ‘Freedom Day’ in the UK – with employers now able to set their own guidelines for the future of work. But just because they can go back to the office, are employees keen? Are your people ready to stop wearing masks, do away with social distancing and return to the office?

You’ll have received some mixed messaging around the easing of restrictions, with some public transport services, supermarkets and healthcare providers sticking to the previous guidance recommending personal protective equipment and social distancing. Indeed, we’ve seen that not everyone is ready to put the pandemic behind them. And when it comes to the way we work, plenty of employees are probably quite comfortable with the home-working lifestyle.

If the pandemic proved anything, it’s that there are lots of roles that can be done from the couch as well as they can be done from the conference room. And it’s got employers wondering: Will we ever see a full office again? Has the self-sufficiency of remote teams redefined traditional leadership roles? And do we still need leadership roles to keep our teams driving forwards?

There’s no denying that leaders have had to change tack dramatically with the sudden rise of digital transformation. More often than not, they’re leading a team made up of a variety of roles, spread out between work and home offices – and requiring new approaches to encouragement and support. It’s clear to see that leadership needs complete organisational change to keep pace with the fast and regular changes we are experiencing in the modern world.

But what might that change look like? The simple fact is that you can’t apply the ‘command and control’ convention to remote working. Individuals, by default, expect a level of empowerment and autonomy consistent with the past 18 months. So, as many will be asked to go back to work in some aspect over the next few months, how does that flexibility play out? Here are a few questions you should be ready for…

Do companies set a minimum number of days in the office and leave the employees to set their own schedules? Do they open later and finish earlier so employees can avoid the morning (c)rush? I know that in the tech community, having core coding hours is something that works well – especially where pair programming rituals are being adopted.

There is also the matter of who comes in when? Does everyone come in the same days, meaning everyone that you need to collaborate with is there? Or if it is split, with certain team members working remotely while others come into the office, is there a way of doing this that minimises disruption to team projects or meetings?

There are obviously operating cost benefits if your office is at only a fraction of capacity, but how far do you take it? Might you sublet the office space on the days you don’t use it? How does that impact company culture? How will you make sure everyone has ample opportunity to reconnect as a business? Is there a danger some team members will only ever interact over a video call?

It might seem like a lot, but these questions are possibly only a fraction of the ones you’ll have to have an answer for.

Want to talk it through? We’ve got plenty of experience meeting company and candidate expectations for modern work styles – and we’re always here for a chat.

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