Long gone are the days where we would be commuting into the office five times a week, over the past year a lot of us have had to adjust to remote working. Some love the flexibility remote working brings, and others frankly despise it and can’t wait to get back to a “proper” office.
As restrictions begin to ease and we return to some sense of normality, what does this mean for the future of working?
In conversations over the last week many clients are curious to know when competitors will be returning to work and when they do what the new work pattern will look like.
Some firms like PwC have already announced their plans to adopt a flexible working policy for their staff. This new approach will see their 22,000 members of staff adopting a new hybrid working model where their workforce will be given more freedom to decide their working patterns and will have flexibility to continue to WFH, with a reduced working day on Friday during the months of July and August.
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC said, “From discussions with our people and clients, we believe these changes will make a real difference, helping support greater work life balance and giving our people more confidence to work flexibly.”
So, when are people planning on returning to the office?
We recently conducted a survey where 38% of respondents replied they had no confirmed date to return to the office and 34% plan to return between now and June. With the successful vaccination rollout and an increasing number of society’s most vulnerable gaining protection against the virus it certainly comes as no surprise that a significant number of firms are looking to get back into the office.
However, those with no planned date are still deciding what their new working practices will be.
Things such as staggered returns are likely to cause difficulties organising in person meetings where required and for those who would prefer to continue to WFH, a balance and consensus will need to be met before firms can begin to put a date on returning to work.
BAM recently announced their plans to adopt a flexible working policy to enable a better work-life balance for staff. Executive Human Resources Director Andrea Singh stated “There has been a shift in mindset across our business. We believe that every role can have some flexibility, but not every role can have the same flexibility”.
This mirrors what we have heard from our clients, not every role will have the same degree of flexibility to WFH as other roles.
However, things could be changing, particularly for the construction sector as the pandemic led to increased delivery through modern methods of construction.
Morgan Sindall CEO John Morgan recently quoted that COVID-19 has been a much needed “wake-up call” for the industry, where new modern methods of construction that require less onsite labour and flexible working has been “good for productivity”.
Modern methods of construction that see more offsite manufacturing and onsite techniques can provide higher quality, safer working practices with reduced carbon delivery.
Whilst the pandemic forced us to make a lot of changes to our working practices, there are certainly some that can be viewed as positive changes that many will be keen to bring forward in a post-pandemic world…
What will the new approach to working culture be?
Results from our poll showed that 34% of people expect that staff at their company be working 1-2 days a week from September and 41% expect people will be going in 2-3 days a week. This is certainly a big change from pre-pandemic levels and goes to show that most companies expect some level of flexible working to be adopted going forward.
A recent report commissioned by Sir Robert McAlpine and conducted by Claremont called the “Forever Flex” report found that 55% of construction firms want to retain remote-working options for their staff beyond the pandemic and 63% intend to keep flexitime working.
Although flexible working does pose its own challenges it has certainly been well received as we can see from the report and the general sentiment from the construction sector.
For many flexible working has provided people with a much healthier work-life balance. People can spend more time with their families, save money on commuting costs, have increased productivity, and positive mental health and wellbeing benefits.
Furthermore, adopting these flexible practices could make recruitment easier by attracting a more diverse workforce, and motivating and retaining staff.
For big firms this could even mean reducing business costs if large offices are no longer needed.
From what we have seen many of the large players in the sector are yet to announce their plans for flexible working policies. It is certainly a good time to make these decisions and announce early, not only for good general PR, but it will also set a precedent for peer companies and will look attractive to potential future employees who want to work for a company with flexible working practices.