October 7, 2020

Working from Home – Not One Size Fits All

The UK government is fluctuating between telling people to work from home, and encouraging companies to send their staff back to the office but do they really want to return?  Netflix Chairman, Reed Hastings, is quoted as calling working from home “a pure negative”[1]; do other big brands share his beliefs?  What about the small businesses out there; has the pandemic been a blessing or a curse?

To prepare for this article I have spent hours poring over the research to get some answers on how successful working from home has been for people and businesses in the UK so far.  If I’m honest, the articles on the benefits of working from home are starting to get my hackles up, and it’s for one simple reason – the generalisations.  It is wild to assume that if a cross-section of the population is interviewed they will give the same answers on:

  1. Have you enjoyed working from home?
  2. Would you like to continue working from home?
  3. How productive have you been?

Let’s take our own company as an example.  We are a team of 13, made up of remote workers and core office staff; some of us are working parents, some of us live with our parents, and some of us live alone.  We have blended families, single parents, and nuclear families in our group.  Our ages range from early twenties to…well, let’s say 40+.  Our job roles are split amongst creative, operational, strategic and coaches/trainers so our day-to-day working lives looked very different even before lockdown.

Just as no two employees have the same experience, no two companies will have approached the ‘working from home’ process in the same way.  Many companies had been taking a proactive approach to flexible working long before the pandemic hit, while others were forced into it with no preparation for their teams on emotional or practical levels.  At Connect Three we were lucky that none of us were new to working from home.  Like many other fair work focused companies, we have had a long term strategy implementing flexible working.  That means most of our team entered into this with previous experience of working at home, and established spaces at to work from.  However, there are many teams and businesses who may have dipped their toe in the flexible-working-water before, or may have never considered it.

All  things considered, how could people possibly write overarching statements on whether working from home has been a positive or negative experience for any team or agency?  Before we run after naysayers like Reed Hastings with pitchforks, let’s look at what he said.  Firstly, he was clear that his staff would not be returning to regular office hours until after a COVID-19 vaccination was available.  Second, he said that: "Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative.”  While it’s a strong statement, it’s not necessarily wrong, is it?  Being unable to get together in person could not be classed as a positive thing.  The impact on company growth and individual well-being is obvious.  Other big brand bosses, however, are more than happy to embrace the changing models of working and the benefits they bring.

With mounting financial pressures, the idea that companies do not need a city centre skyscraper office to attract the best staff is incredibly appealing.  The pandemic has proven for many companies that a dispersed workforce is an effective method for finding and retaining diverse talent.  Imagine a future where companies can still pay you ‘big city’ wages but move their headquarters to cities where their rent, and yours, will be much lower.

Other brands have plans for hybrid models of working.  Facebook, for instance, has announced its intention to open small satellite offices where staff can ‘check in’ and meet face-to-face regularly while still working from home when they like.  Coinbase CEO Brain Armstrong says; “… the vision is to have one floor of office space in 10 cities, rather than 10 floors of office space in one city.”[2]

There is no doubt that the cat is out of the bag when it comes to remote working, and that the likelihood of everyone who worked 5 days a week in an office returning to that style of work any time soon is not high; but questions are rightly being raised about whether company culture and innovation is being impacted; about how ‘presenteeism’ will affect career progression for parents and junior staff; about how staff mental health is impacted by isolation from colleagues and face-to-face networking.  As Mark Lund, President of McCann Worldgroup says: “We are missing the charge of physical meetings and collaboration with each other and clients greatly. The serendipity at the heart of the creative process is much harder to achieve via a screen.”[3]

So where do we go from here?  How do we create a model that works for all of our people, enabling them to be productive, while protecting their emotional well-being and securing our company’s future?  Oh wait, were you are expecting an answer?  Like I said, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for the ‘working from home’ question.  I do know how you can find your company’s answer though – communication.  Speak to your staff as individuals, make your decisions about the future based on evidence, not assumptions.  Just because surveys and research say that most older people want to keep working from home, while most younger people want back to the comradery of an office; that does not mean it’s true for your staff.  Check in with them and find out what they need.  One thing is for sure, the working from home model must evolve from where it is now.

Those businesses who have yet to plan how a more flexible working arrangement could benefit their organisations for the better need to start now, and those businesses with established flexible working solutions need to review what has worked and what hasn’t during the recent system stress test.

“Even the most ambitious champions of remote working acknowledge that in-person interaction with colleagues is healthy for morale and company culture, and that it enables a greater degree of collaborative innovation not possible with Zoom or Teams, which tech leaders agree is an essential catalyst to growth.” Says Ernest Andrade, Founder of the Charleston Digital Corridor[4].

Nikki Slowey, Founder and Co-Director of Flexibility Works, says: “The demand for flexible working was already outstripping supply here in Scotland and in particular the demand for home working had certainly not been met by employers. Business leaders are now looking at how people in their organisation will work going forward and realising that home working needs to be part of the picture. This doesn’t mean everyone working from home all of the time. There is still a huge role for a physical space, which allows us to connect with colleagues, but we will see a more blended approach to where and when people work.

“And remember, what we’ve been experiencing is not even ‘normal’ home working, as it happened so suddenly for so many people, not to mention the fact many of us have children at home. Just think what can be achieved if we embed flexible working properly as businesses re-set post COVID19. There are, of course, many challenges for organisations and workers because of the pandemic.  But there is an opportunity to make some things better.”

Get in touch to find out how Connect Three can support businesses like yours in engaging with your teams, or the behavioural support required during the challenges working from home gives employees and how we can support managers and leaders.


[1] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/netflixs-reed-hastings-right-call-working-home-a-pure-negative/1694607

[2] https://blog.coinbase.com/post-covid-19-coinbase-will-be-a-remote-first-company-cdac6e621df7

[3] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/netflixs-reed-hastings-right-call-working-home-a-pure-negative/1694607

[4] https://venturebeat.com/2020/09/13/after-covid-a-hub-and-spoke-office-style-could-become-the-norm/

July 2, 2020

Working Lives in Scotland

CIPD Scotland has created an insightful report on job quality in Scotland as part of their commitment to championing better work and working lives for all Scottish people.  What’s really interesting about this report is that it offers pre-COVID-19 analysis and insights on workforce health and wellbeing as well as skills and careers development.

This report adapts the CIPD Good Work Index to the Scottish Fair Work Framework.  If you have worked with Connect Three before you’ll know that we are passionate about helping businesses meet the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Framework.  We are proud to have been awarded the Glasgow Business Award for Fair Work last year, and in the last 12 months we have worked to help others create the same engaged, innovative workplace that we have been recognised for building with our own team.

So what are the key findings from the report?

One finding that we feel has extra relevance in our society right now is the positive correlation between flexible work and job satisfaction.  Now that more businesses have been pushed into creating flexible working environments for their staff, how will they move forward when we all return to office environments?

Connect Three’s Founder, Colin Lamb, says: “We have long been champions of flexible working and are happy to see this report’s finding that there is a positive correlation between being flexible and having a happier workforce. Flexible working practices allow everyone in your organisation the chance to shine, regardless of what’s going on outside of work.”

A finding that we were disappointed to read was that both personal and career development opportunities differ, often significantly, by gender, age, sector and occupational class.  The statistic in this which stood out to us was that there is a significant gap in the perceived skills development opportunities for the 45-54 age bracket.  It has started some interesting conversations amongst our team as to the skills development opportunities appropriate and available for this age group.

“One of the five pillars of the Fair Work Framework is opportunity.” says Gordon White, Connect Three’s Operations Manager. “Seeing this perceived gap in skills development opportunities for the 45-54 age bracket drives home how important Opportunity is when creating a happier and more productive workplace.”

Other key findings:

You can view all of the results from the report and download the unabridged version here.

For more information on Fair Work and creating Opportunity within your organisation, get in touch with Connect Three today on hello@connectthree.co.uk.

July 1, 2020

Build Back Better with Workplace Innovation

As COVID-19 lockdown measures slowly begin to ease, is your business ready to restart, grow and strive to be better than ever?

The Build Back Better Workplace Innovation Progamme is designed to help businesses identify steps they can take now to not only transition from survival to growth, but to emerge stronger following the crisis. This includes taking a fresh look at business strategy through new ideas and thinking, leading teams through change in an unprecedented time, whilst placing a strong emphasis on the importance of employee engagement and connection.

This is a free programme of 3 half-day workshops delivered by Connect Three in partnership with Scottish Enterprise.

Workshop 1 - Refocusing your business

  • Changing business landscape - take a fresh look at the business strategy
  • Move from Chaos to Opportunity - reposition the business to emerge stronger from the crisis
  • Turning new ideas and thinking into action

Workshop 2 - Leading through Change

  • Supporting leaders to reflect on their own role in leading the business out of lockdown
  • Examine what leadership behaviours & style are required to support people coming back to work
  • Delve deeper into the priority’s leaders need to set for the business, following Workshop 1

Workshop 3 – Engagement & Connection

  • Identifying ways to engage in a virtual world and build a culture of trust and psychological safety
  • Create purpose and align this with contribution in the new workplace
  • Being courageous to make right and fair decisions for the business and its people in the long term

**UPDATE**
The first Build Back Better Workplace Innovation series is now fully booked. The second series starts on 15th July. Register your free place today!

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