Jill Dawson

Head of Marketing

  • Data Strategy
  • Data Science & Analytics
  • Data Visualisation
  • Data
  • Data Ethics
  • Culture

28 Sep, 2021

Finding our equilibrium workplace

Return to the workplace surely must be the most hotly debated topic of 2021, and it looks set to continue.

Over the last year employees have been able to collectively demonstrate that they can work successfully from home harnessing the latest tech. We use MS Teams at Chaucer (there are other powerful collaboration tools available) and the shift to remote working enabled us to leverage the full functionality of MS Teams as we could never have envisaged. Miro, Mural, Polly, Forms and more took a collective battering in the desire to optimise our virtual collaboration, as well as our home broadband - and generally they all held up. Well, there were broadband issues with home schooling and then the inevitable gaming ‘sesh’ after the bell meaning videos had to be disabled to continue any meaningful dialogue.

We even discovered backgrounds, we added our own funny ones, and even the marketing department cottoned on and issued a corporate one. Then we discovered the ‘together’ option. Who doesn’t want to see themselves sit in a fish tank with their co-workers…?

There was a collective moment of joy in our virtual worlds when an American lawyer, Rod Pontin was stuck with a kitten filter on in a virtual court case. In reality ‘I’m not a cat’ could have happened to any of us on Zoom.

Image credit: The Guardian

My point is though that the digitalising transformation that had failed to reach a tipping point in more that 20 years of my working life happened, overnight. Organisations were able to lift and shift operations, and their people, from office to home without downtime.

It hasn’t all been a plain sailing though. Getting a work/life balance was tricky. Back-to-back MS Teams calls soon meant that the working day got personal. We had to find our off switch. Our mental health was impacted too.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is commonly seen as the de facto theory on the fundamentals of our core foundations - friendship & love, safety & security and physiological. Yet many of us were living in imposed isolation, with limited to no physical interactions, others isolating with their direct families putting a strain on relationships.

With lockdown lifting, vaccines rolled-out and even travel restrictions easing our lives are slowly returning to a new form of reality and “normality”. And, with these collective experiences, it’s clear that people are keen to have a greater say on how and where they would like to spend their working lives. It is probably also fair to say that organisations have realised that the purpose of city centre offices has changed. Instead of endless rows of desks the trend is moving towards collaboration hubs to maximise value from people’s time back in the office and entice their employees back.

Successive lockdowns have inadvertently unleashed a surge in staff demand for home and hybrid working, for ever. Something that was once the exception has now become an accepted norm. As we accelerate our recruitment, the candidates we speak to demand a certain level of flexibility. Personally, I am a one of the converts, having once been an advocate for camping in the office five days a week to interact with my co-workers. I am now seeing the benefits of the hybrid model which allows me to avoid unnecessary and stressful commutes into the capital and instead being able to sit with my new furry, calm-inducing, co-worker Arthur, or occasionally work from my local coffee shop, should I crave a buzzier environment. 

I am not the only one, our recent poll with over 600 respondents tallied with this shift to flexible working reporting that 90% of people would consider looking for a new role if asked to return to the office full time. Hybrid working is unquestionably the preferred model for today’s workforce, while remote working took a respectable second place and only 10% opting for a return to the office full time.

We’re yet to find our new normal, but we’re transitioning and adapting fast. The last eighteen months have changed people and organisations. With employees having found their collective voice, it’s essential that organisations listen and engage making sure that they understand their needs and preferences of employees. It’s essential to balance organisational and people needs in safe and secure environments, allowing work to be undertaken anywhere.

With an infinite number of variables to consider, at Chaucer we have developed Business Intelligence tools to harvest, unlock and leverage data from organisations from MS365, HR and other systems, combining it with external feeds such as government data to understand employee’s behaviours and act fast. Using advanced analytics helps organise, visualise, and plan the optimum approach to working – allowing organisations to make the right decisions to attract and retain talent, improve productivity, manage risk, and eventually grow brand equity.

To know more: visit the results of our latest poll here and to learn more about our workplace analytics visit www.chaucer.com/returntotheworkplace.

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