As a result of the pandemic some companies have decided to permanently abandon a central office in favour of a full-time remote workforce. We had an internal discussion on the long-term impact this could have on staff, talent attraction/retention, office culture, internal policies and overall employee wellbeing.
Simon Blair, CEO and Founder and Jason Pilkington, Associate shared their views on both sides of the fence. As a group we’ve collectively experienced the pros and cons of working from home, which we’ll go into more detail on in this debate as well as share our ideas for our future plans as a business.
One of the key points in this topic was the financial impact the pandemic has had on businesses like ours, peoples’ personal incomes and government support received. With some of the major players like Twitter and Deloitte offering full time remote working contacts, do we still need a London weighted salary?
Simon: People expect to be financially rewarded in all situations, whether they are working from home or in the office. In my opinion I think staff’s requirements are slightly higher than they used to be. It’s not often that companies would stand in the way of this, especially as you run the risk of losing people if you do not keep up with employee expectations.
Jason: It’s very challenging to debate salaries as one blanket rule as there are so many variables to consider. For examples, in Central London we have a weighting to the public sector. So whether the company are home-based, office based or offer a hybrid model they need to consider what suits the company best, geographically speaking. Secondly, salaries are performance related and this opens up another debate on whether productivity has increased or decreased since working from home was made mandatory. We’ve got CEO’s saying “there’s actually been a significant improvement in performance”, but on the other hand we’ve heard many SMEs saying they’ve seen a reduction in productivity.
Simon: I agree wholeheartedly with basing salaries on performance and KPIs, I think we will see a heightened focus on this as measuring success through performance really seems the only way of understanding productivity while staff are working from home – trust alone is simply not enough.
In conclusion, we agreed employee salaries need to be performance based and measured through achieving set KPIs. Be it in the office or at home, staff warranting high salaries will be the ones completing all the tasks in hand and going above and beyond.
Talent retention is a huge factor companies need to take into consideration when deciding future working models. KPMG recently confirmed it was implementing a hybrid model to reduce the risk of losing staff to competitors. Both Simon and Jason agreed SHB, as a company of 20 people could not be directly compared to organisations as big as KPMG and different considerations would have to be made for smaller businesses.
Simon: It’s important to have a clear plan of what is expected of staff members in terms of number of days they are required to be in the office per week, otherwise you will start to see a divide between staff members who prefer to work from home and are very productive when doing so vs those who feel they are contributing more to the business than their peers by coming into the office more regularly.
This led to a discussion on culture and what motivates our different teams. Our business development teams – Client Solutions and Flexible Workspace, could argue the buzzy office atmosphere motivates them as they make almost 100 calls a day, whereas our team of surveyors, who often find themselves out of the office at client meetings, viewing tours and networking events may feel that the day-to-day colleague interaction isn’t a vital part of their productivity levels.
Jason: It’s not realistic to say being visible in the office to prove you are working applies to all roles. Take me for example, I am typically out of the office in London, Manchester or Bristol on viewing tours with clients. It’s quite often the case the Client Solutions team would not see me in the office for a few days at a time. It’s up to the manager to agree with each employee the best working model for them, their productivity, and their role. Again, this enforces what we were saying about one blanket rule for all staff does not necessarily work for all businesses.
The use of operational programmes such as Microsoft Teams and video calls have made it possible for staff to function remotely. However, does the trust begin to diminish without the ability to ‘see’ what employees are doing on a daily basis?
Simon: I think this depends on the employee. Someone who has worked in the business for a long time and has a proven track record of delivering (KPI wise) has earned their stripes and can certainly be trusted to get the job done from home. However I do feel new staff members have more of a precedent to set and should be here in Central London, learning how to work with the rest of the team and making an impact.
Jason: Taking the onus away from SHB for a minute, many larger organisations have gone against Goldman Sachs and said “if you have proven your success in productivity, then you’ll be granted a working from home arrangement” the employee would then only be required to work from the office four days a week in a fortnight for training and in-person meetings. Personally, I support the flexibility of the hybrid model.
We’re still unsure exactly of what the ‘new normal’ will look like and how this will impact the way companies function and remain profitable in the long-term. However, one thing is starkly clear, we must provide clear messaging and communication as a business to our employees to ensure we keep on top of our internal policies and our strategy remains robust, no matter where we are working from. We then moved onto discussing how brand and culture business has and may continue to be impacted by working from home.
Simon: If you aren’t together, you might as well be anywhere – it has a massive impact. Learning a company, getting to know each other, etc.
Jason: Onboarding new starters in a hybrid model still has a question mark over it in my opinion. I’m just not sure how we can replicate the learning from one another and collaboration remotely – no matter what level you are, this is crucial to finding your place and flourishing in a new organisation.
Simon: Our business puts a huge emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, and our residence is a huge part of our brand (after all we are a property company). It’s so important for us to maintain this communal, motivational space – this means upsizing offices when we grow, updating our workspace and offering an open plan, modern layout for collaborative working. I do recognise this isn’t for every industry and some are not driven by the same attitude as we are.
One result of the pandemic is what’s been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’ as people start to look for new opportunities that align with their personal flexibility requirements. This means businesses are fighting for top talent and need to be competitive when offering perks and benefits, such as health and wellbeing support, flexible working, higher pension contributions, but more pointedly for us, people increasingly expect more workplace perks such as gyms, yoga studios, plenty of collaborative hot-desking space, games rooms and sleeping pods.
Has the pandemic affected your office plans? If you’re looking to relocate, change workspaces or downsize get in touch with our team of experts.