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Best Companies, The Future of the World of Work session at Best Companies Live Q2 2022 event
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The Future of the World of Work: Balancing business and culture

With where, and how, we work the key point of discussion for organisations up and down the country, just how do you strike a balance that works for your people as well as the business?

In this session during May 2022’s Best Companies Live, we asked how company culture can survive with the increase in remote, hybrid or ‘anywhere’ working policies. We discussed the benefits and challenges of having different working setups for different individuals within an organisation, and how employers can ensure their employees feel fairly treated without the existence of a ‘one size fits all’ strategy. Read on for the highlights, or, to watch the session in full, click the video above.

If the pandemic proved anything for businesses up and down the country, it was that working from home was possible. Now, with no restrictions in place as to where we work – organisations must consider if remote working should be a part of their plans for the long-term.

The balance, of course, is a hard one to get right. Where home working offers flexibility around home life, it can also cause isolation and digital fatigue. And where office working offers social interactivity and collaboration, it brings a commute and the potential for less quiet space.

Best Companies’ latest round of survey data found that 74% of respondents who were surveyed by us January to March agreed that they have the flexibility to work in a way that suits them. Of course, the employees that feel this way are most likely to not only stay with their employer – but be optimally productive – an important consideration for employers.

But with different roles within different organisations, and a whole variety of personal circumstances leading to different preferences for working – just how do you go about establishing a policy that works for everyone?

“It’s about asking ‘what works for you?’"

For Katherine White, Director of People at Wyboston Lakes Resort, planning for future working meant understanding what people wanted from their working lives.

“The majority of our staff need to work on site to do their job, but there’s a lot that don’t need to be,” she explained. “We know that it’s about looking after them whether they are working from home or on site. For those that do work from home, it’s about asking ‘what works for you?’, rather than us telling them what they have to do. Each department has had that conversation with staff.”  

White explained even before the pandemic, the organisation was looking at the ways in which it would work in the future, and the resulting ‘co-working’ spaces it has established have proven popular with employees.  

“You could say we had a crystal ball,” White explained.

“We looked at co-working pre-pandemic and continued to progress the original plans. We opened our first co-working space two weeks ago, which means employees can come into the office and use a desk for a day, or perhaps get a pass for a month. They can make it flexible for whatever suits them, rather than being told ‘you need to go into the office every day.’ The concept has gone down really well.”

“We recognise that some jobs have to be done in the office, but for others they have more flexibility

Offering flexibility is key to the future of work according to Helen McHale, CEO of housing association, Stockport Homes. She believes that employees appreciate the ability to make working life fit in with their personal circumstances.

“We recognise that some jobs have to be done in the office, but for others they have more flexibility to tailor their working day,” she explained. “For example, an employee can choose to work three days in the office and two at home. For someone on a modest wage, those two days saves them on car parking and an after-school club, for example, and therefore could result in them saving about 20% of their take-home pay. It works for them, but they are still giving really excellent service.”

“That feeling of being back together creates an energy and a connection”

For Ryan Cheyne, Interim Chief People Officer at Motorpoint, the pandemic proved that the business could still operate remotely. However, he believes the face-to-face aspect of bringing people together is paramount to creating a company culture that people feel a part of.

“When we were allowed back into workspaces, the buzz of getting everyone together, the atmosphere, and people sharing thoughts about the company and what we’re trying to achieve created a real energy and connection,” he explained.

“We’re human beings and we like company, we like friendships, and we like relationships and that’s an important part of the mix.”

“We have to make sure that we're giving people the space, the opportunities, and creating those social connections”

When it comes to the importance of the physical office in creating a culture where people thrive and don’t want to leave, Laura Dixon, Head of People Operations and Business Partnering at digital retailer, moonpig.com, says it comes down to understanding what people use the space for.

“One of the key things we're identified is people want to come back into the office for collaboration and face-to-face meetings, as well as social connections, so the physical office has to be reflective of that,” she explained.

“We have to make sure that we're giving people that space, the opportunities and creating those social connections. It's about recognising that not everyone is going to be back in the office at the same time, five days a week, or on a weekly basis, so it's about shifting and changing so people feel part of the business whether they are at home or in the office.”

“We've got to create an environment where work matters to people more than just a job”

Jamie Bunce, CEO of Inspired Villages, believes that people should be able to choose where they work, providing the output is where it needs to be.

“We have people working out of our villages, on shifts, and we also have people that work in support services who might want to work in a different way,” he explained.

“So, we look at the output and make sure we are all driving towards the same goal. We want to be the leading retirement community operator and in order to do that we've got to create an environment where work matters to people more than just a job.”

To enjoy this session in full, see the full recording here.

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