The consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have been wide-ranging and at times, distressing. Countless individuals found themselves isolated from their place of work, instead working from their dining room table, home study or bedroom desk. As lockdown restrictions continue to be eased, employers up and down the nation are beginning to contemplate what the ‘new normal’ for working space will look like. It’s unlikely that bustling offices are set to return anytime soon- even when we’re free to mingle freely. This month, our CEO Rob Belgrave ponders what the future of the workplace will look like with guest speakers John Wilson, Becky Simms and John Haggis.
Our Guest Speakers
As Head of Technical Operations, John Wilson specialises in the management and transformation of infrastructure, technology and controls to improve service quality, performance and security for customers and end users.
Becky Simms is the Founder and CEO of Reflect Digital. With over 12 years of experience gained helping clients to achieve real ROI from digital and offline marketing campaigns, Becky is passionate about everything digital. Her mission is to help clients to build and retain an authentic and effective online presence which supports growth.
John Haggis is a Founding Partner of Kepler Wolf, a law firm that prides itself on using its legal and business expertise to help liberate clients in the innovation and technology sectors. John’s area of expertise lies in advising business owners and companies on the start-up, growth and exit phase of their businesses, and also has experience handling contentious matters for his clients.
Where we are and where we're going...
It’s no secret that countless workers have enjoyed greater flexibility since working from home full time. As John Haggis postulates, there are benefits to working both at home and in the office; the way forward is letting employees decide for themselves the conditions in which they work. We’re unlikely to see the return of the 5 day ‘in-person’ working week. Nobody knows for certain what the workspace of the future will look like, Becky Simms adds. As it stands, everybody’s desperately craving social interaction. It’s possible that once workspaces reopen, businesses could see a temporary drop in productivity as teammates are reunited after a long hiatus. A balance will need to be struck between the more sociable office work environment and remote working setup.
Discussing the future of Pax8 UK, Rob Belgrave notes that current plans would see the UK branch of Pax8 mirror the set-up of its American counterpart. That is one large office hub with smaller offices around the country as expansion continues. Teams and business leaders have had to become more accommodating of employees’ lifestyles and working preferences throughout the coronavirus pandemic. We’re collectively working towards the ‘new normal’, so now is the time to experiment with workplace set-ups and digital solutions to achieve positive changes.
The Role of IT
Reflecting upon the IT challenges posed by the pandemic, John Wilson recalls that people require different levels of technical support when working remotely. Working in an office permits a ‘one size fits all’ approach to IT- each team member is provided with the same IT as the rest of the team. Remote working means that the team needed varying levels of support, and different pieces of technology to achieve their goals and aims.
John Haggis shares the impact that increased use of digital workplace solutions has had on Kepler Wolf, an independent law firm. Software like Zoom and Skype mean that customers are likely to expect greater digital access to their lawyers, and potentially on a more regular basis. Whereas before, legal processes were slower (and more costly to the customer), now major sales and deals can be conducted quickly and efficiently online.
As remote working is expected to remain a more permanent feature in our working culture, it’s likely that the recruitment field for any given business will expand. As Becky Simms questions, why limit yourself to one locality? As long as the working conditions are practical, it makes sense to employ the best person for the advertised job (even if they live on the other side of the country). John Wilson concurs, noting that Kepler Wolf is no longer a London-based law firm- recruitments are being made across the country.
Pax8 UK CEO, Rob Belgrave, has previously stated that one of the company’s goals is to foster a more inclusive and diverse workforce. By employing individuals from areas that have historically not enjoyed the opportunities as others, Pax8 UK will be able to offer individuals exciting and potentially life-changing opportunities.
Are Offices a Thing of the Past?
Our panellists share the view that office spaces will continue to play an important role in working culture going forward. John Haggis notes that it’s important to have a space to collaborate in person- Zoom can only go so far as to emulate a truly collaborative workplace experience. Rob Belgrave agrees, commenting that whilst focused work can be achieved at home, the office is likely to remain as the hub for team check-ins and feedback.
The change in workplace dynamics is set to change the ways in which new and junior employees integrate into the existing team. Our panellists agree that induction periods will need to be reviewed; there are some aspects of in-person working that cannot be replicated online. Becky Simms observes that new teammates soak up remarkable amounts of new knowledge just by being in the office. Jon Haggis concurs, stating that new hires will also miss out on company culture should remote working remains a core fixture in working culture. Kepler Wolf has shared that as lockdown guidance changes, new hires will be required to work in the office 2-3 days a week.
As lockdown restrictions continue to be gradually eased, it’s impossible to know for certain what the ‘new normal’ will be for working environments and cultures. Rob Belgrave predicts that people will spend more time in offices than they’re currently expecting two, perhaps three working days a week. Businesses will also widen their recruitment fields; workforces will no longer be confined to one locality- they’ll be nationwide.
John Wilson posits that different teams will take varying amounts of time to return to the ‘new normal.’ It’s likely that individuals will feel anxious about returning to the office, so it may take time until teammates return to the office on a more regular basis. John Haggis predicts that flexible working will make for a happier and more relaxed workforce. People will be afforded the ability to work in the way that best suits them. The old attitude that a ‘proper’ working day is 9-5 in the office will become a thing of the past. Becky Simms concurs, predicting that team leaders will judge the quality and quantity of the work produced by a team member, rather than the amount of time spent physically working.
As Rob Belgrave so aptly put it: ‘the world is waking up, the narrative is shifting and it’s time to see what comes next.’ Nobody can say for sure what the working culture of tomorrow will look like, but one thing is for certain. The ways in which businesses and teams operate will never be the same again.