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Office Flexibility: Listen to Your Employees

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Posted by Loren Von Sternberg

With the recent announcement of the delay of ‘Freedom Day’ to the 19th of July, when the Government have planned to lift work from home rules, along with the easing of all lockdown and social distancing, there is a lot of talk about the new normal and making permanent changes to the way we work.

If we have learnt anything from the pandemic, it’s that most people have successfully been able to WFH, have an improved work/life balance and business performance has not been affected So what are peoples true thoughts on returning to the office? Last week it was announced that a Goldman Sachs boss has described homeworking as an aberration and that they will all be expected to return to the office in June (when the original easing of lockdown was originally expected) and  JP Morgan announced they’d be coming back but on a rotational model so 50% of employees are in at any one time. Since January, I have spoken to a large number of recruiters that have been back in the office five days a week, with no flexibility or home working, and have been commuting in for months, some even when London was in Tier 4 restrictions. These have mainly been from smaller firms, although ever some of the bigger firms and global powerhouses are insisting on a certain number of days in the office every week, although there does seem to be a little more flexibility to WFH and support from their employers. It’s really tricky in recruitment, as a lot of the role is about the culture, office environment, and colleagues. In fact, in a recent poll I’d conducted on LinkedIn, 44% of recruiters are looking for good culture and flexibility in the workplace. It is really about what is working for your employees and how to get the best out of them rather than insisting on the long hours in the office traditionally associated with recruitment. Here at Pro-Recruitment Group, we are still working from home (and have been since October last year when we went into Tier 4) and our productivity has doubled. We have had some absolute record performances and Personal Bests and the success our teams are having is across the board. This has shown us that WFH really has been good for us and our employees. We will allow this to shape our future of work, and the general office working pattern going forward. I recently posted a poll on LinkedIn asking what would employees feel comfortable with/want to do if THEY could CHOOSE their office working pattern, rather than being told what it will be from their employer. Only 7% of people wanted to be back in the office five days a week and 16% wanted to WFH five days per week. The resounding response was 74% of people would like to split going back to the office/WFH on a two-day three-day split (either way). Speaking to many of my colleagues, so many feel this way, whilst working from home gives the flexibility and work/life balance and saves time and money on a commute. It is also great to see your colleagues/friends and comrades at work to still give you that boost and human interaction. The hybrid model has been adapted into our working patterns for good! A lot of the comments on the post were rather than prescribing a few days in the office and some at home, giving employees the opportunity to choose their own office working pattern and give complete fluidity. Whilst this can work for some, depending on office size/meetings and diary commitments may make this a bit tricky. Here at Pro, we have recently downsized our office to accommodate a more flexible and agile workspace for our employees, and whilst the office is open (and has remained open throughout the pandemic) for people who cannot or do not want to WFH, we will not be asking or telling staff to return until the government guidelines change after July 19th. From July each team will have one day per week in the office (as this is what was requested by the teams), and the remaining four days can be from home or the office, whichever suits each person best. Some people will be in more, some less, but it's about giving our staff the flexibility to do what works for them. Our teams have worked so hard and performed so well through the challenges of the pandemic that we know they can be trusted and relied on to work in the way that suits them best. We will be reassessing priorities and what is happening in the world and with our teams again in another six months or so, coupled with engagement surveys and feedback to find out what people actually WANT to do!

If you want to find out more about how we are approaching and going about work in a post-Covid world and want to be given more flexibility then contact Loren on 07539 888 231 for an informal chat or virtual coffee to find out more.

Loren von Sternberg