The last UK lockdowns are long past, so what happens now when it comes to how we work? Firms like Goldman Sachs called staff back into the office, while other organisations are fully embracing hybrid patterns for their workforce.
With Government-enforced at-home working behind us, now is when employers and employees have the opportunity to take stock and rework how they work for healthier, happier and more effective outcomes.
For the Vuelio webinar ‘Work, Life and Balance: The PR challenge of 2023’, Hera Comms founder and managing director Anna Geffert, Atom Bank’s head of PR and communications Robbie Steel and Natwest Group’s assistant director, communications and engagement Sarah Beber shared the choices being made in their own companies and what is working for them.
‘Like many organisations, we’re still finding our feet,’ says Sarah.
Read on for ideas on what could work for you:
1) Take time to rethink how you work
‘The pandemic changed the way we think about flexible working,’ shared Sarah Beber about the changes that had to happen at Natwest Group.
‘Prior to COVID-19 there were a number of us who worked flexibly, but there were areas and teams where it would not be seen to be the “done thing”. Then COVID forced it on us. There were definitely people who had never considered it, who were suddenly doing it and loving it. We are still finding our feet; finding what works and what doesn’t.’
2) Find new ways to connect with your colleagues
‘There are lots of conversations about how to make the most of the time in the office and how people can stay connected,’ shared Sarah.
‘Our team at Natwest are spread out – if I’m in the office, a lot of them aren’t. We’re still trying to work out what is best for us and how to stay engaged. All the tried-and-tested channels are no longer tried-and-tested, not when you’re physically and mentally in different places – it’s an added layer of complexity and I imagine it is the same for many people.’
3) Evolve corporate culture to fit
‘I’m not sure the four-day week would have happened had COVID-19 not happened,’ admitted Robbie Steel, who shared how Atom Bank moved to a four-day working pattern successfully. Could a four-day week work for other organisations now the world of work is changing?
‘There are so many companies offering this now,’ said Robbie. ‘One challenge is the culture piece – you lose a lot of togetherness and the social part of work. At Atom, people mentioned that it wasn’t the same after the height of the pandemic. That is one area we’re trying to get back into the office culture.’
4) Like working from home? Just don’t forget the benefits of face-to-face office time
‘Now we’re seeing what flexible working can really do – what the pitfalls, dangers and benefits are,’ said Anna Geffert.
‘Junior people, just out of university, can really struggle teaching themselves to do their job while working from home – it is very difficult to teach newly-graduated people through osmosis; you learn so much being in-office. I’ve seen this from other agencies, also – there is a huge skills gap at the moment. Some new employees are not as developed in skill set as you would expect from someone three years qualified.
‘There has to be a happy medium. I’m in office three days a week – what is called a ‘TWAT’, I think! I haven’t heard of anyone doing full-time in-office, or purely flex.
‘I think it is dependent on sector, on business culture, and if you can physically do that. In finance, you can’t have the tech at home; there are sensitivity and privacy regulations – I get that. But there has to be a conversation. And that conversation will become tricky. People could start losing out on promotions if they aren’t in-office. How can you make sure people aren’t unfairly treated just because they weren’t there? They miss the boss saying “Do you want to go for lunch?” or when clients are in.
‘That’s the danger we are now seeing and need to be aware of.’
Watch the full webinar ‘Work, Life and Balance: The PR challenge of 2023‘ for more on the future of work and the impact of the last few years on the PR and communications industry.
Quite like working from home, either full-time or flexibly? Remember to keep it professional on work calls – here are pointers on video call etiquette, with warning stories of high-profile inappropriate video call filters and childminding fails from the early days of the pandemic.