The historian David Schama once said that “History never repeats itself exactly.” Yet here we are in December 2021 facing identical challenges to the ones we faced on the run up to Christmas last year.
There’s a new variant of COVID-19 on the loose, social distancing restrictions have been put in place and everyone is waiting for the Government to make an announcement in a few days’ time that will dictate whether planned celebrations and family gatherings can go ahead (I’ll say “gatherings” not “parties!”). Despite Schama’s words, I feel a very real sense of deja vu!
Driving Home For Christmas
One of the biggest changes to have happened in recent days is the reintroduction of the ‘Work From Home’ order in England as part of the Government’s move to ‘Plan B’ (bringing England broadly in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). My wife and I watched the No10 briefing last week as Boris Johnson made that announcement. I then turned to my wife and said:
“Employers simply have to embrace remote, flexible working. We just don’t know how long this is going to go on for.”
While many employers have embraced more flexible working practices, it’s not a completely rosy picture. Over recent months, various employers had said they wanted staff back in the workplace.
Among them were Goldman Sachs, Future Publishing and JP Morgan. KPMG had just announced it wanted staff back in the office four days a week when Plan B was introduced.
When Employers Don’t Fully Embrace Flexible Working
Of course, these are big employers. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of smaller employers coaxing, nudging, persuading and pressurising employees back to the office.
Employers in this position need to reflect on their working culture and ask why they are behaving like this? Why are they so wedded to making employees commute to a desk and a computer in an office when most people have desks and computers at home?
Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen that remote, flexible working really does work. Yes, there are exceptions such as the manufacturing sector, but for the most part, we’ve not seen the possibilities, we’ve experienced them. Employees are often much happier working this way and a happy workforce is a more productive one.
Why Isn’t Your Employer Accepting Flexible Working Into Their Culture?
If you are an employee, and your employer was demanding you come back to the office, you need to think about the culture of the place you work. At the very least it suggests your employer has learned nothing from the pandemic and has an outdated approach to its operations.
Historically people were concerned about the tech not holding up, but we’ve seen that it works. Let’s not forget, a group of NASA scientists landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars while working from home! If they can do that, why can’t you work remotely and just visit the workplace when necessary?
The focus should be on results and productivity, not on your presence in the office. Just because you’re sat at a workstation in an office doesn’t mean you’re being productive. It suggests the employer doesn’t trust their staff and if you don’t trust your staff, it says a great deal about your recruitment process.
Let’s get back to the reintroduction of Plan B and the impact of the pandemic. Since September 2020, there have been numerous variants of COVID. We’ve had: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lamda and of course Omicron.
If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that there will be more variants. No, I don’t mean to be a doom monger. If there’s one thing I want to see, it’s this pandemic to come to an end.
Unfortunately, that looks unlikely any time soon. If an employer is making a sweeping statement about wanting you at your desk while an ever-changing virus is still sweeping the globe, you have to wonder what their priorities are. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the well-being of staff or staff retention.
Talent Flourishes Under Employers With Flexible Working Culture
The reality is that employers who have embraced flexible working will attract and retain the best talent. Individuals who work this way have been given agency and autonomy and know they are trusted.
I think there will be a brain drain away from the dinosaur businesses who want you in the workplace as often as possible. Those are the old ways and those employers who haven’t seen and accepted this face a very limited future.
To read from more great things from John, check out his piece on who you and your employer need to recognise that; Remote Working is Not Working From Home.