Nobody could have predicted the rollercoaster of 2020 and we’ve still got just under half the year to go. In fact, whilst writing this I’ve seen a post that says ‘I might just put the tree up now and call it a year’. I certainly know how they feel.

As businesses continue to emerge from lockdown however, we look back at the lessons lockdown taught us and how it prepares us for the future. First in this miniseries will be a look at working from home, how it will change businesses for good and what to consider for your company when planning for the future.

Working from home

Once seen as an optional extra, working from home became the norm for many people in April. In fact, many organisations committed long term to their work from home schemes by stating they are not planning on employees returning to the office until 2021.

Whilst government guidance will influence some decisions, employee wellbeing and public opinion could be far more influential when planning for the future.

At the start of lockdown Edelman released their ‘Trust Barometer Special Report’. This report identified three important insights on what the public expects from brands:

  • 62% of respondents said their country will not make it through the crisis without brands playing a critical role in addressing the challenges
  • 55% said brands and companies are responding more quickly and effectively than government
  • 71% confirmed if they perceive a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever

These findings place large expectations on brands to ‘do the right thing’ but at the same time suggest an opportunity to build huge amounts of loyalty and credibility if they do.

But what is ‘the right thing’? Some employees will embrace work from home schemes whilst others will be desperate to get back to the office for social interaction, routine and mental wellbeing. There is also the potential hybrid of the two. The result could be a workforce that splits its time between multiple locations. For smaller businesses this could allow growth without investing in premises as office space is shared more efficiently.

This could all mean additional costs as we adapt to a new way of working whilst still trying to foster a positive culture and effective methods of training. With 90% of respondents to the above study stating they expect brands to ‘do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and suppliers, even if it means substantial financial losses until the pandemic ends’, businesses might need to pick up at least some of the bill.

Our Recommendation for Work from Home

It is suspected there will be no further furlough support after October. With this in mind we are working with businesses to put in place effective plans for this eventuality. This involves:

  • Understanding the future make up of the their workforce and desired working environments
  • Growth opportunities and strategies
  • Funding options over the next 12 months

Putting these plans in place is critical as, although there is still an estimated 1.5billion of government funding available to businesses, this will return to the Treasury at the end of August. Gaining access to this funding now will be hugely important and could be the difference between a business who is in a position to grow vs. one that struggles to survive the next few months.

Another consideration will be the role of your office. If more staff are working from home, what purpose does your office play? Is it still required? Does it need to be as large as it is? These are important questions but it does not just come down to cost saving.

As mentioned above, growth might become more feasible as existing office space is used more efficiently. Furthermore, maintaining a central location for staff to gather allows for more effective training and a place to encourage your companies culture.

Much of an individual’s learning is gained from observing their peers or overhearing conversations in the office. Culture is something else that is picked up through observation. Being told quality is of paramount importance is one thing. Seeing a team work late or redoing a job until the desired quality is achieved sends a much stronger message of what is expected.