Flexible working begins with a return to the office
The enforcement of homeworking and online meetings was a momentous shift.  But there was no choice and, as such, it did not constitute flexible working in the literal sense of the words. In fact, the true test of how flexibly we can work is only just coming into view, as Richard comments in the Estates Gazette.

16 July 2021


Richard Angliss

+44 (0) 20 8078 0291

While everyone was chained to their desks at home during lockdown, adding home schooling to boot, broadband was tested to new heights.  But once access to systems was in place via the laptop at the kitchen table, little materially changed for months, other than perhaps an office-quality chair at home.

As we make a gradual and partial return to the office, we will begin to test our true ability to flex and the ability of our technology to keep up.

The flexible era we are embarking on now requires technology to be in many places at once – in the office, at home, on site and at socially distanced meetings and events.  We need to be contactable and progressing workstreams wherever we are.  Mercifully, that is certainly not just at home day in and day out.  Hence, the truly "agile working" chapter begins and, arguably, it may be how working culture remains beyond the immediate Covid response as a new, more work-life-balance-friendly way of doing business.

Interests of businesses and employees are more aligned in this shift than it might first appear.  Both want to maximise the effectiveness of the working day in a productive environment, while saving time and cutting unnecessary costs.  The opportunity to reduce the office footprint will appeal to corporates and the offer of flexible working will be a key consideration for employees in the war for talent.

If employees have genuine choice as to where they can work, the office needs more than ever to be an attractive place to entice them into the commute for the collaboration, cultural alignment and relationship building that is best done face-to-face.

As we are all encouraged to take personal responsibility in our response to the pandemic in this next phase, that will also extend to the decisions of employers and employees as to how they can foster and deliver productivity on this new flexible basis with a close eye also on health and wellbeing.  Employees will also judge a business not just by its physical office environment, but by its complete operating platform.

The challenge will also be to ensure technology can keep up and that we get the right systems to make this agile working seamless.  This requires full digitisation of the working environment to provide employees with access to systems, data and documents that enables them to kick-off or participate effectively in business activities wherever they may be located.  This means access to the right tools to collaborate not just with those in your own company, but with all parties involved in a process, similarly working remotely or from their office base.

These things will become essential for the modern office worker as flexible working really comes into being from 19 July.  Steve Jobs once famously said: "Some people say, give the customers what they want. But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do… Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page."

I suspect that technology that facilitates not just truly agile working but also online collaboration between multiple parties irrespective of location and indeed time zones will soon be as important to you as that proper office chair.

Click here to see the original article in Estates Gazette.