7 key learnings around changing working patterns
by The Alternative Board (UK)
Our first 'Alternative Perspectives' Member Webinar
We were really pleased to recently host the inaugural Alternative Perspectives Webinar, discussing ‘Changing Working Patterns’ chaired by Ed Reid, MD of TAB (UK) – a webinar series that will see us exploring key business issues with our members and facilitators.
We heard from four UK members who shared their experiences of the changing working patterns brought on by the pandemic, how it had been for them and what the future holds. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects was hearing the differing experiences of ‘returning to the place of work, or not.
Through breakout rooms run during the session, we were able to explore different perspectives in small groups of diverse businesses, before sharing their best practice tips with the wider group.
Introducing the session, Ed commented on the pressure businesses are facing from an employee-driven labour market, and how issues such as mental health awareness and the need for flexibility were now high on every business’ people agenda.
Aaron Fox of TelXL, talked about how he was keen to get his office-based staff back into the office post-lockdown but found himself being challenged and struggling to explain why getting them back was important. He picks up the story “We then ran our quarterly all staff meeting as an in-person event. Guess what? It triggered a Covid outbreak so really didn’t help!
“We’ve worked through this as a team now and we’ve identified the work that can be better suited to being done at home, task based activity (emails, creating a slide deck) and people-based activity that needs more collaboration and a team effort– which involves being in the office. We’ve reached a happy solution, 3 days in the office and 2 working from home.”
- Reluctance to return to the office – this was a theme heard throughout the session. Employees are enjoying working from home, it’s convenient, saves time and, for the many who have acquired a dog (and there are many!) it’s where they want to be.
- Demand for greater flexibility – members reported seeing an increase in requests for flexible working and, shorter week working. These are requests that can’t always be accommodated dependent on the sector and requirements of the business.
- One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to flexible working - if your clients are in the office 9-5, Monday to Friday the chances are you are going to need your team to reflect this.
- It’s good to talk – regular communication is vital – and remember that it’s a 2-way thing. You need to listen as well as broadcast!
- Needs to be regular
- Keep it simple
- Give people time
- Always listen
- Embrace the changes – so many positives! Hybrid working allows businesses to cast the net wider when recruiting and this has been a real bonus for many. It also allows more people who do need to WFH to be part of the workforce. For Tracey Henry of Grace Communications, attracting the right talent to her office outside of London was always a challenge. Commenting she said, “Finding quality people to join our expanding team has been easier since lockdown. We are a small team and have embraced WFH and now a hybrid model and that’s been great for team members.” She explained how many of their clients are still not back in the office, so everything they learnt during the pandemic is very much still in practice.”
- Structured flexibility – plan for the next stages of working life for your team and business, inform everyone, give time, listen, talk and collaborate to help embrace the hybrid way of working. Garry Davies of McClarrons Insurance, explained about giving time, “We thought we did quite well, giving employees four weeks to get organised and back into the office, but in hindsight this should have been more like 8-12 weeks. Some of our team needed more time to arrange childcare, dog sitters etc. so we ensured we supported them. We have to consider that many people have changed their lives during the pandemic, thinking they would never return to the office.”
- Put on your oxygen mask first – leaders have been so focused on their teams but are they taking time to look after themselves? If you are going to be strong at the helm, then you need to assure your own health and well-being. For Suzanne Lawson of Moorland Contract Group, her management team ensured each other’s sanity was maintained, “We all had up days and down days and offered words of wisdom and support to each other. We were fortunate that we took turns being the supported person and the one in need.”
In conclusion it was agreed that we are very much still ‘in it’ in terms of working out how the future will pan out but concluded that each business needs to take its own individual approach, understand what’s best for their business and the team and move forwards from there.
Commenting, Ed said, “Business owners can’t assume it’s all settled in terms of changing working patterns. There is still lots of exploring to be done and planning for the next stage of ‘hybrid’. Develop ‘structured flexibility’ and be on the front foot – keep talking, address the issues but remember that whatever the solution, it has to be right for the business. If we do this, we have the opportunity to make it work better – and that’s got to be a win.”
Special thanks to our panel of speakers, Aaron Fox, CEO of TelXL, Garry Davies of McClarrons Insurance, Tracey Henry of Grace Communications and Suzanne Lawson of Moorland Contract Group who gave such valuable insights into their own experiences.
We have our second Alternative Perspectives Webinar on:
‘The Rising Costs of Business’
Tuesday 24 May 2022
9.30am – 11am
Come along to this 90-minute session on the rising costs of business, looking at things like wages, supply chains and inflation etc.
To reserve your place please email Suzanne Bell.
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