The Future of the Workplace
The Evolution of the Working Environment - Covid-19
The workplace, and all the rituals we've become accustomed to surrounding it, cannot afford to stay the same. That much is for sure.
We spoke to Leaders from across Europe on what they envisage for this new look workplace and it will impact the methodologies we all have around our working lives.
An Increased Emphasis on Routine
Lars Osterberg is the CEO of MANOMOTION. Founded in 2015, MANOMOTION provides frameworks for real-time gestural analysis. For you and me, that means using our hands to communicate in a virtual 3D space. Borne out of Stockholm University with the launch of the first-generation iPhone, it fell to Lars Osterberg, now CEO, to scale the product and start making money.
For Lars and MANOMOTION, who has just received a big EU grant from Horizon 2020 program, the key to maintaining productivity while encouraging a healthy work/life balance is setting a clear routine early.
“It’s hard to ask for help and support from your manager, they would normally talk to their colleagues. Now what? “
But how do set routine when home situations can be so varied? For Lars, is about being proactive, asking the right questions, listening and then not being afraid to define a structure for the team to follow.
“It’s down to the manager to be proactive and ask the right questions.
We’ve brought in monthly performance reviews. We’ll actually discuss everything between manager and employee every week. Especially, is there anything you need to help you because we don’t have that support network immediately available in the office.”
Quite often, we might find ourselves having to make adjustments to our lives, to make room for recovery. It can sound counter-intuitive but developing a daily routine can help us to feel more in control of everything, and help us to make room for all that’s important. Routine can aid our mental health. It can help us to cope with change, to form healthy habits, and to reduce our stress levels.
When you follow a routine at work that really works, you can feel confident that the outcome will be the same each time. Lars needed to give just a little push to encourage these healthy working habits.
“What I realised I needed to do was encourage a structured piece of work. I asked them to deliver a report to me every week just to get them into a routine. They’re now well on track.”
Maintaining Workplace Atmosphere
Aaron Cornell is the Head Of Software Development at Norfolk Capital Group. Managing the tech team here, Aaron operated within a standard working structure with remote work being allowed only very occasionally for emergencies.
When the lockdown measures came into place and everyone had to start to work from home, Aaron took the initiative to use a set of tools to keep the teams running seamlessly.
“The usual daily stand-ups have been replaced by Webex meetings and Microsoft Teams. Various channels have been set up to for general chat as well as a workflow management tool where team members can see their progress in real-time.”
Performance management isn’t always about setting rules, it’s about creating a working environment that can make us feel comfortable enough to set our own rules and working practices. In the same vein, Aaron was aware of how the very sudden removal of the office setting might impact his team and moved to address it.
“My team were missing that background “office” noise. We introduced a Discord channel that the team keep on at all time for non-work chatting, it seems to be working well with team productivity and morale have improved.”
Discord, a voice chat application mainly used for gaming, allows for the creation of several ‘room’ which can be themed based on the needs of the team. This is a great way of maintaining that siloed feel the office should the team find that comforting.
Overall Aaron and team have taken a proactive approach to the challenges of WFH, initially, the productivity dropped however the work done so far is already paying dividends with productivity in recent weeks being much higher.
A New Level of Tolerance
Mate Varga is the VP Engineering at Patient Knows Best, an application that works with the NHS Connecting for Health network and puts patients in control of their records.
For his team, who have traditionally operated with a flexible working policy, productivity has only gone one way.
“If anything output has probably slightly increased. We work remotely, but also operate flexible working, so many of the staff start early and finish early, or start late and don't finish until late in the evening. The flexible working is there to suit everyone's circumstances and I'm not bothered when the work is done, the important thing is that it gets done.”
Flexibility and tolerance are key methodologies in Mate’s team, allowing them to stay productive and maintain the ever-important balance between work and life in a situation that isn’t true remote working.
“A lot of our team have young children, so we have to be happy and tolerant of a child popping up on the camera or running into view occasionally. The current situation is not proper remote working, as the majority have been forced into finding a quick solution. Usually the children wouldn't be at home either, they'd be at school, so the "new normal" will look different again.”
New Standards for Critical Hires
Aidan Moran is Managing Director at ecx.io Ltd, part of IBM iX. the global agency family of IBM. Here, Aidan and ecx.io act as one of the leading digital agencies in Europe with more than 350 employees at sites in five different countries.
With this spread of work, Aidan and his team are accustomed to working remotely and now about all the positives and negatives that come with it when running technical teams.
“If you think about tech people, distractions are one of the biggest blockers to efficiency. We need to focus on our tickets, our dev ops activities. That all takes concentration, so when you’re in the office and have people in the office coming up to you all the time it can cause problems.
You’d find people putting headphones on in the office because they’re trying to disconnect and focus on work.”
But this ‘new normal’ has largely been forced on people who, if they had a choice, would look for better working environments. The loss of control and isolation are both things that we would all change. For Aidan, this is something that needs to be addressed before we consider it as a full-time solution.
“Being remote, if we can address these isolation challenges and self-motivation issues, could very well be the future.”
Self-motivation and time management are both key skills that most hiring managers will look for from their hires. At the back of their mind, however, will be the fact that in most cases they will be there to guide and instruct in person. In this ‘new normal’, however, hiring managers may well be looking at these traits as being critical.
“The format or makeup of a person - can you self manage? Do you need to work with a team? Do you need tasks allocated to you? All of these are critical now and I think we will have a makeup of recruitment that will necessitate home working.”
Around 2.5m people at the greatest risk of complications, such as patients having treatment for cancer or people on immunosuppressant therapy, are being asked to isolate at home for 12 weeks to protect themselves - a measure called shielding. For many, this will impact their relationship with workplaces for good.
“There are also those who will not be able to go back to work. My in-laws live with me, they’re in their late 80’s, so if i go back to work, contract the disease and bring it back to the house i’m putting them in danger.
Recruitment reviews of the future will have to be much more flexible. There will be candidates who will say they cannot come into the office and that’s okay and it could actually be a benefit.”
Questions like: will you be willing to onsite with clients? Will you be able to commute internationally? Are less relevant and less important now. With a large portion of workforces all over the world being able to push back now after proving that they can be just as, if not more productive while working from home.