It’s been 15 months since I wrote my last blog ‘Adapting to a new reality’, in March 2020 and what a 15 months it’s been! It feels like we’re beginning to enter a new phase of the global pandemic and as we look back, I’m very proud to say that at Natilik we’ve not just ‘got through’ a year of Covid, but we’ve ‘grown’ through a year Covid. It’s been thrilling to see everyone adapting and innovating in the way we run the business and deliver the outcomes our clients need. We’re in a fantastic position to invest further in innovation and growth as we move forward. However, my heart still goes out to everyone who hasn’t been so lucky over the past year and it’s clear we’re going to be living with the ramifications over this global pandemic, in there many guises, for months and years to come.

In our offices in the UK, USA and Australia it appears we are now through the worst of the pandemic in terms of hospitalisations and deaths (fingers crossed) and a lot of the focus of our leadership team and our clients is what the future of work now looks like.

Before I move on, I think it’s worth acknowledging the quite different strategies of Australia and the UK/USA. Although the UK and USA Covid strategies haven’t been identical I think they are now converging on a ‘how to we live with Covid in the long term’ approach. Australia, for all the amazing results over the past 15 months, where hospitalisations and deaths have been so low, an approach of ‘Zero Covid’ is going to become impossible in the coming months. I think for any country to function as part of an integrated global economy we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, and hopefully over time that’s where we move to, especially in many parts of the developing world, where help is still urgently needed.

Anyway, back to the business context.

It would appear that companies are taking different approaches to how their people work ‘post covid’, or at least once covid is ‘manageable’ within their country, will we ever be in a situation that can be described as ‘post covid’? I think we have all heard of companies talking publicly at the polar extremes….’Everyone back in the office’…..’Everyone work from home for ever’….! I personally think these two views are too binary and what people want is choice. Pre-pandemic, most organisations were offering some form of flexible or home working options and it’s clear that people enjoy these options. The pandemic has allowed millions of others to experience the benefits (and challenges) with flexible/remote working and many want to retain this choice in the future.

My hope is that we can find a new way….a once in a lifetime opportunity to find a way to re-wire the way we work and not just accept the binary (and operationally more simple) approach of ‘everyone in the office’, or ‘everyone at home’. It will be much harder for leadership teams and people to find solutions to adopting a new way, but what a prize to fight for!

My take is that people want choice, but providing flexibility will bring complexity and the need for companies and individuals to think about some key questions:

1) People

a. How do companies support early in career people who need the office to learn from people around them?
b. How will senior people feel about coming into the office, not because they necessarily need to, but because that’s one of the crucial ways that junior people learn?
c. How do people feel about not being able to come into the office whenever they choose, but having to pre-book resources and be more deliberate about their office usage?
d. How do teams find a new rhythm that supports the outcomes they need to achieve, but also provide the flexibility that people want?

2) Property:

a. How does space planning work for existing or new office space, what is the right ratio for meeting rooms, collaboration spaces and hot desks to support more flexible working?
b. How much office space do companies need if people are going to come in less?
c. How flexible are the current lease arrangements and how long should commitments be made for any new space?

3) Technology:

a. If 99% of meetings moving forward are going to involve at least one remote participate, how is the technology going to support this?
b. As more and more people permanently work from home as part of their working week, what changes to expense policies/health and safety rules/insurances/technology need to be made and how do some of the ‘sticky plaster’ solutions put in during the pandemic stand up to permanent use?
c. How do organisations embracing flexible working secure themselves against the growing array of cyber threats?

These are just some of the questions that leadership teams and people are grappling with in trying to find a balance and provide choice.

At Natilik, we’re helping our clients to answer these questions and make the solutions as simple as possible, in addition to tackling these questions for our own organisation. It’s hard, it requires lots of listening, thought and discussion, but at the intersection of People, Technology and Property are some hugely exciting outcomes and a way to move forward that will provide an amazing place for people to work and clients to receive an exceptional service.

It’s going to be a challenging next phase, but one that holds many exciting possibilities for a once in a generation shift.


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