Lucy Bielby Market Insight
Lauren Taylor HR & People Transformation expert was interviewed by our Director, Lucy Bielby about how organisations can effectively look to the future and identify how they can operate as efficiently as possible.
Lauren has supported organisations including BT, British American Tobacco and more recently Marsh & McLennan through periods of change. In a series of questions, Lucy wanted to understand from Lauren, her thoughts as to how organisations should be approaching any change programmes ahead, whilst drawing on any lessons that she has learnt along the way.
What do you think the future workplace will look like Lauren?
I can’t see that we will be in a position where all employees will return to the workplace. With social distancing, hesitation about commuting and ongoing care challenges, organisations will likely enable a phased transition back to work place. This is never going to be a ‘one size that fits all’ both in terms of employees and employers.
Over the last 6 years agile working has been high on the agenda and a key discussion point for HR and Leadership Teams, but in the most part what an organisation means when referencing “agile working” is not clearly defined or consistently applied. We now need organisations to define what agile working means outside of the legal provision of flexible working.
What type of education is required for successful agile working?
Organisations need to focus on how they are set up to enable agile working. If an organisation already has or will have more people working remotely than before, they will still find that many may want or need to come into offices where possible. Even if it’s just 30-40% of the team in time, and with social distancing in place this won’t be a likely scenario for a fair while.
That said, I’ve never seen agile work well without systems in place, small things like desk booking systems. It’s the time to get IT and HR together to start working this through.
There is a big education piece here, often starting with leadership teams. We have seen organisations manage, lead and onboard employees remotely through this time but there is still a perception for many that people can’t deliver without colleagues and teams around them.
With a previous client we had more than one discussion about why people had to be at a desk. Not one area of their argument actually stood up when it was challenged. The ‘new world’ will test many leaders belief that performance will be a problem. It will be interesting to see if the last few weeks have changed their mind at all.
How do you see physical office spaces working?
Where remote working isn’t an option and social distancing will be existing into the future. Many organisations are going to have to be thinking about re configuring the space that they have.
I’ve seen articles that comment on some businesses purchasing more office space to enable social distancing and that can only be a knee jerk reaction for businesses and one that I definitely wouldn’t recommend. Although some businesses may have needed more warehouse space for example over the last few weeks / months, it’s going to be more about fully utilising and the space that you already have. This alongside focusing on working patterns, allocation of work and workforce planning on those business critical roles.
I think what we actually need is a more flexible environment, not just one where employees work from home, organisations will have to judge their office set up in accordance to safety distancing guidance. This piece of work will be a significant piece of cultural change and that’s just one project that organisations will have running alongside many others and these things take time. Often organisations can struggle with a piece of work like this and that’s without the other pressures that we now have as well.
Do you think many organisations will move away from physical workspaces?
There are so many avenues that organisations should be looking at now to get head of curve. Whilst reducing their real estate portfolio does enable savings, outside of people. Many who have been thinking about this may have already missed the chance if they haven’t been looking closely at simple things like any break clauses in their contracts.
Lots of organisations won’t own their assets and reviewing their real estate portfolio will enable a policy for agile. This was a large part of one of the projects in my last assignment where Real Estate Optimisation actually identified savings of $3.5m over a two-year period (2020/21) via optimisation of existing space, planned implementation of smart/agile office principles and technology, deployment of more efficient workspace standards alongside a reduction of vacant space by disposing of poorly utilized space across the portfolio.
If you would like to discuss how Lauren may be able to support you through any upcoming change related projects, please contact Lucy Bielby.
The full Q & A is available here.