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How the workplace may change post-2020

Just a few months ago, we released a practical guide exploring how we felt the workplace may change in 2020. The situation is changing rapidly and as businesses emerge from this turbulent period, it’s almost inevitable that the workplace will change beyond recognition.

With that in mind, we’re looking at how clients can cope with the unexpected and how workplaces could adjust over the coming months.

Flexibility is key to success

As businesses have adapted to the impact of the coronavirus, those who had the flexibility to swiftly implement changes may be better positioned to survive and thrive.

A recent poll from VOIP provider 8x8 showed that just a few weeks ago over 40% of companies did not have remote working policies in place. This led to a last-minute panic as firms scrambled to find the right technology for their staff as companies were ordered to work from home where possible. The rush to purchase technology equipment led retailer DixonsCarphone to announce that electrical sales increased by 35% in the three weeks to 21st March, with online trade increasing by 72%.

That shows that many businesses may not have had the flexibility or adaptability to react to the changing market place.

Perhaps we can anticipate that businesses may start to incorporate stringent contingency planning and operate more holistic business recovery drills as part of their ongoing business strategies.

Contingency planning

Most IT departments will confirm that contingency planning and disaster recovery are core parts of their policies and procedures but typically these plans revolve around technical issues. Having the ability to remain working effectively during a business interruption is vital – particularly for small and medium-sized businesses where productivity directly links with revenue.

This crisis has shown that businesses need to be able to adapt to fluctuations in workforces and that they need to be able to react to factors outside of their control. Resilience is not just about preventing technical issues or cybercrime; it’s about being able to remain productive in new situations, with new technologies and processes and different staffing levels.

Business recovery drills could become an intrinsic part of any business planning. These drills simulate specific situations - either physical such as a fire/flood, or digital such as security breaches. They are designed to check how quickly and efficiently businesses can operate, allowing for weaknesses and vulnerabilities to be shown. This data can then be used to enhance contingency planning. This could be as simple as checking that everyone can monitor their emails from home, or it could be working strategically with recruitment firms to ensure that staffing resources can be adapted at short notice through the use of temporary and short-term contract staff.

From a practical workplace perspective, there could be potential for disaster recovery planning to become a potential growth area with new services and career opportunities arising.

Making the most of remote working

As firms start to see the positive impact of remote working, it could be that businesses will evolve and incorporate home working and flexi-hours as standard practice.

Statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that between Oct-Dec 2008 and Oct-Dec 2018, home working opportunities grew dramatically in London and the South East.

Oct-Dec 2008
Oct-Dec 2018
South East

Working from home figures

As remote working becomes more accessible, it is thought that these numbers could soar over the next decade. Not only will employees now be able to show their productivity, but many smaller firms may decide that the expense of office premises could be reduced significantly if all, or some, or the workforce choose to work from home.

This may bring new challenges. Not just technical. HR teams may need to establish strategies to build team cohesiveness and solidarity across multiple workplaces. However, it could also bring many positives. For example, the gender pay gap may start to close as women benefit from home working opportunities, and staff are more likely to become advocates for those firms who give employees greater flexibility in working patterns.

Showing your support for staff

“There's always an opportunity with a crisis. Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to re-examine its policies and practices." 

Judy Smith

Over the past few weeks, businesses have responded in many different ways. Some firms (such as Timpson, Unilver, and Whitbread) have been remarkable in the ways that they have shown public support for their employees, whilst others have been criticised for seemingly putting profit ahead of public safety.

Looking to the future, we may find that staff support will become an intrinsic part of any business strategy. Candidates will always do their research before any application and are likely to research companies to see how their staff were supported throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

To address this, many businesses may start to use comprehensive marketing techniques to show how they have actively supported their staff. Some large national organisations already have dedicated sections on their websites to show their CSR policies, whilst smaller businesses make use of “work for us” pages on their sites to show their initiatives. These sections of content could have greater importance as applicants may want to know more detail about how companies actively care for their team.

Benefiting from new opportunities

It’s early days, but there may be new opportunities that arise from the ashes of the coronavirus. We mentioned above that business recovery teams and contingency planning could become a growth area within businesses. They could become new services for businesses to deliver, or opportunities to upskill and develop staff in more strategic roles.

Creative thinking has also seen new ways of working soar. Training workshops which previously had to be held in person are now flourishing online using technical tools such as Zoom. Communications teams are finding exciting new ways to engage with audiences and small businesses (particularly those in B2C sectors) are working with customers to find new value-added ways of showcasing expertise and knowledge even when they are unable to sell specific products.

With more than 20 years’ experience, the Allen Associates team knows how to adapt and respond to changing markets. To find out how we can support your staffing solutions, please get in touch.

Allen Associates

Allen Associates

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