As the government’s confidence that society will fully reopen in time for the summer holidays grows, it seems incredible to think of how our lives have changed over the last 16 months.
We quickly adapted back in March 2020 to working full time from our homes. Almost simultaneously, there was much speculation that this shift would be permanent, and the city centres would be a shadow of the thriving, vibrant hubs that they once were.
So as the government prepares to drop the work from home requirements, will there be a reluctance to re-embrace the office 9-5 culture we once accepted as normal?
Shortly after the first lockdown, we were appointed administrators to several businesses and had to quickly adopt the new operating protocols. This presented several challenges.
Consider, for example, remotely addressing a manufacturing workforce who cannot work from home. What steps can the administrators take to ensure they are safe from COVID-19 in the workspace? Are they going to lose their jobs? Will they be paid as normal?
These are normal questions and concerns for anyone working for company that is insolvent but addressing them over a video call is far from ideal.
Pre-pandemic, most of us would not have thought twice about commuting for over an hour, sitting at a desk, deleting emails and tidying files, on a day where there are no client or team meetings planned.
So, will the new normal simply reflect our daily tasks and whether we ‘need’ to be in the office according to our diaries?
There is a third dynamic to consider. Every year at Kroll we have a July intake of placement students who spend a year with us as part of their degree courses, many of whom then return as trainees when their university courses are completed. In 2020 and 2021 we have adapted and conducted mentoring and training remotely. We had the same number of placements we would normally take and many of them have shown true enthusiasm to learn and experience work.
But many of our placement students this year have not had the chance to simply be in the office. They haven’t experienced the drink after work, the chat over coffee or the culture of the organization. The experienced colleague dealing with a challenging client, the opportunity to build trust and be given more complex tasks, the adrenalin rush of a new win, the disappointment losing a pitch to a competitor—none of this can be shared from a kitchen table.
The end of the pandemic has coincided with the lease on Kroll’s Birmingham office reaching its expiry and giving us the chance to reimagine our workspace. Globally, our executive team announced a programme of investment to adapt all our workspaces to be relevant to the new normal. In Birmingham, our plans look fantastic and we will have a combination of workstations and team spaces. We will be making further announcements very soon, but we have also chosen space with a roof top terrace and a communal gym.
The flexibility to work from home on the days you really don’t need to be in the office has many advantages that Kroll, like many other organizations, is fully embracing. But, the need to be in the office runs far deeper than diary commitments. With our new space in Birmingham and the culture at Kroll, I am expecting that demand on our hot desk system will be somewhat higher than many may have predicted when we all adapted so well to home working!