To mark six months since the UK went into lockdown, ADT Workplace co-founder David Clemetson, reviews how far we’ve come and what the future holds for workplaces…
It seems like a lifetime ago but at the same time, just yesterday, that we tuned in on 23rd March to hear the Prime Minster order the country into an initial three-week lockdown. Six months on, it’s fair to say that we have now become used to the ‘new normal’ which evoked much debate back then, but what have we learnt and what’s important as we move forward?
Aside from how to bake banana bread while simultaneously home-schooling and hosting a TEAMS meeting, we have learnt that for most of us, we undervalued and took daily face-face-face interaction for granted. Banned by law from seeing our friends and family and having to remain at home with the exception of once-daily exercise or essential shopping, the novelty of unexpectedly working from home full time quickly wore off for many. There have been numerous reports which support this. In June, for example, the EMEA Workplace Advisory team published a report which revealed that while its 5,000 respondents supported for the continuation of working from home in some capacity once the pandemic is over, they also have a desire to return to the office to collaborate with colleagues.
Following the Prime Minister’s instruction this week for the nation to return for homeworking, it will be some time before the workplace returns to full capacity. That said, when the time comes, most businesses are now ready – or at least have the wheels in motion – to welcome their people back. Over the past few months our team has been speaking to many clients, existing and new, to help them create COVID-secure environments and consider any future changes they may need to make to their workplaces – whether they are relatively temporary or much longer term, we’re yet to know.
Accelerating workplace culture
What we do know from speaking with many of our clients and others across the industry, is that the impact of Covid-19 has prompted an accelerant in workplace culture. In some cases, pushing what’s been happening gradually over recent years in terms of utilisation of tech and flexible working, forward by as much as five years. The intelligent tech that was already available and in most offices, has instantly become central to successful business operations, with those who were reluctant to integrate it within their organisations, embracing it to enable their people to work productively from home. And more recently, to support the operation of COVID-secure and controlled workplaces, through technologies such as door sensors and booking systems.
Thanks to the adoption of technology, flexible and agile working has also become common place overnight, with most businesses we speak to considering a long-term hybrid approach combining office-based with home working. Because of this, our conversations are centered around helping them to create workplaces which cater for these new needs, with agility and flexibility at the core. By incorporating less desks and more third space, businesses will be able to ensure they have appropriate space to allow people to work and meet safely in the office as we go through phased reoccupation over the coming months and potentially years, and also offer the type of workplace settings their people need in order for the business to be successful.
Supporting the next generation
We’ve also had many conversations around the importance of reopening workplaces in order to support the next generation of talent and new team members. Much of what we learn at work is acquired not from formal training but from working around peers day-in-day-out, listening to, observing and learning from colleagues to strengthen our skill-set. Absorbing company culture, developing a sense of belonging and building true, meaningful connections is also very difficult to achieve working remotely. Thankfully, most organisations we speak with understand the long-term impact ignoring this issue this could have, both in terms of employee wellbeing and career development but also for business continuation, growth and ultimately success.
The next six months
It’s clear from recent data that the second phase of Covid-19 is well on the way, but this time we know what we’re dealing with. Although the introduction of stricter regulations means full-time working from home for most of us for a while longer, most businesses are well on the way to creating resilient and sustainable workplace strategies, meaning that when the time comes, our people can return to the workplace safely and confidently in COVID-secure environments.