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What will the future of work look like in 2020?

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We Are Adam recently teamed up with people success platform my2be to investigate the impacts the Coronavirus pandemic has had on our working lives, make our predictions on the future of work, and to provide tips and pointers to businesses and organisations that are beginning to think about introducing flexible and remote working policies. The result was our whitepaper report – The Future of Work 2020 – which is available for free download here.

Adam CEO Richard Gahagan and my2be CEO Adam Mitcheson recently sat down with We Are Adam’s Operations Manager Leanne Scaletta and Copywriter Kimi Wright to discuss what we uncovered in our investigations, how what we learnt can help organisations look to future, and a more in-depth analysis of how we believe our working lives are going to change in the future.

The discussion began with talk of mentoring and the benefits that it can have for businesses trying to find their feet in a post-pandemic world. My2be have worked extensively with businesses around the world to help use mentoring schemes to help diversify workforces and create inclusive spaces for employees to progress within their careers, as well as companies developing talent in-house.

Opportunities presented by remote working

Adam also points out the doors that have opened and opportunities that have arisen for businesses since remote working became more commonplace. Collaboration between companies, a wider talent pool, and more freedom for finding clients outside of their local area to name but a few.

“It also creates massive budget opportunities for us,” Richard points out, going on to explain the cost difference in offices between London and Manchester. “Our previous London office was a quarter of the size of our Manchester office, but cost us more. You can look at size, space, and location and make cost reductions there.” He goes on to point out that this could mean you are able to provide more attractive and competitive salaries to potential hires, as well as hiring the most talented people even if they do not live close by.

Another unexpected advantage of virtual meetings that became apparent quickly was how online meetings appear to make more space for quieter or introverted employees, who may not have spoken up at in-person meetings but are finding their voice in virtual meetings and becoming more involved. There is, however, a flip side to this: many employees who would usually be vocal and outspoken in meetings are sometimes much quieter in virtual meetings. “We need to find a balance,” says Leanne.

How do you keep your company culture alive whilst working remotely?

Businesses face many challenges whilst trying to nurture their culture whilst working remotely. “The challenges of remote work are often the same that you have with a team if you are in an office: communication, recognising talent, and retaining staff,” Adam points out. There are some basic things you can do to help keep your company alive – setting up a slack channel or WhatsApp group for non-work chats and organising virtual social events can go a long way towards keeping your people connected and feeling like a team, as well as allowing a more social environment even with a distributed team.

The option of having an office space as a ‘hub’ is also a popular and simple solution. Although staff would not be required to come into the office daily, they have the option of working from the office if it suits them. The business has a physical office space for meetings and social situations, but it is likely that overheads would be much less than a larger office.

The discussion moved on to how We Are Adam worked to keep our culture alive, and to make the shift to remote work easier. Luckily, we already had the technology available to us, meaning that the switch to working fully remotely was much smoother, and the entire team chipped in to make the transition as easy as possible. “We’ve had this technology for two years,” says Leanne, “yet it was only when we were forced into using it that we realised how it could free up our time.” With the commute eliminated, workers gain time back for themselves and their families – although it is important to note that some workers are finding that they instead are using this time to do more work, which could be detrimental in the long-term.

Employee mental health, wellbeing, and health and safety

When your team is distributed you must still ensure that you are fulfilling all of your legal responsibilities to your employees. Risk assessments must be done on the employee’s home working setup (this can usually be done by self-assessment), and it is important to keep regular contact with your employees so that you can solve any problems that arise as soon as possible. It may be that you need to invest in providing your workers with new equipment.

It is also important to look after your employee’s mental health and wellbeing if they are working remotely. Some people thrive in an office environment, being energised by spontaneous conversations and collaboration. Some workers may begin to feel isolated or left out. Communication is key in this situation, and regular, open contact with your employees should help mitigate any of these issues.

“The commute is the biggest health and safety issue of them all,” says Richard, when discussing a possible return to work. “You’re relatively safe in your own home, but the commute is a problem. We’re solving this in our business by allowing our employees to make the decision to commute or not – when the office re-opens, our team will only need to head into the office if they want to and feel comfortable doing so.”

‘The new normal’

“The attitude moving forward is going to be ‘how’ – we’ve gotten through the survival phase now, and people are moving into recovery and progress,” predicts Adam, looking towards the future.

Tech companies in Silicon Valley are leading the way, some by introducing sweeping remote working policies like Twitter, and others telling their employees that they do not need to come back into the office until next year at the earliest. When big Tech companies jump, the rest of the business world often follows.

“Everybody is very forgiving at the moment, because we are all still in crisis mode,” cautions Leanne, “but when we start to get back to normal, people’s attitudes may shift to thoughts like ‘why aren’t they online when I’m online?’, and every person is going to have a different opinion of what work/life balance and flexible working means to them, so there are going to be cultural clashes within businesses. There’s a potential for friction there, and a big challenge for leaders to overcome.”

“There’s going to be so much brilliant innovation coming out of this", finishes Richard.

For more in-depth insights you can watch the full discussion on YouTube here, listen to the podcast here, or download a free copy of The Future of Work 2020 here.