What do you think has been the biggest revelation for workers over the past 12 months?
I think the key thing is that people want to retain the flexibility that they’ve gained throughout the pandemic. People want to keep the time that they’ve gained back from not having to commute, and they want the ability to manage their professional and personal lives in a different way. We can no longer claim that those two things should be separate because it’s just not true anymore.
Do you see the hybrid model becoming the new normal?
It’s interesting, I think for lots of companies that makes sense because a certain level of physical interaction is good for wellbeing and productivity – but among the companies either wanting staff back in the office or permanently remote, the argument is that if some are at home and some in the office, it’s inevitable that some workers will miss out on communication that others are getting. It’s very important that no workers become alienated as this new model takes hold.
How do you think businesses should decide on their approach going forward?
I consider the right route completely different for all companies. What is right for some will not work for others. So the best thing to do is for businesses to sit down with their people and talk about what they want. There is no alternative to opening up that communication and having an honest conversation about what will work best. Only then can you make an educated decision.
Do you think that HR will be judged on the decisions it's made in the pandemic?
Absolutely. Already, employees are being very vocal about how their company has dealt with the pandemic. And once the majority of the crisis is over, people will decide for themselves whether they want to stay with their employer based on their response to coronavirus. This has been a massive learning process of trial and error, and no one is to blame for things not always being ideal, but I do think that some companies may be shocked by the volume of turnover in the not-too-distant future.
Are employees missing any part of the collaborative experience by being remote?
Whereas I do think there are many positives from being together in a workplace, I don’t think that workers are necessarily missing any key element when working remotely. We can recreate social time, we can recreate watercooler conversations and collaboration digitally. But it does require some effort on the part of leaders, HR and line managers to facilitate these things. They won’t just magically appear, so putting in the investment in these areas is extremely important.