The Chamber has published a new report on the future of the workplace, bringing together contributions from eight experts who share their vision and predictions for how the workplace will change over the next few months and years.
There was a point in about mid-April last year where we all began to realise this wasn’t just for a few weeks.
At that stage, about half of us (49.1%: ONS) were doing at least some of our work at home, and many businesses who had rapidly put temporary solutions in place started looking longer term at what technology they needed and what the workplace might look like once all this was over.
We then started talking about the ‘new normal’ – whatever that is, we haven’t reached it yet and many of us are working in broadly the same way now at the end of March 2021, as we were a the end of March 2020.
But it’s important to think about where we’re headed.
Nearly three quarters of North East businesses (73.5%: ONS) have had more staff working at home as a result of the pandemic, and more than a quarter (28%) expect increased home working to stay permanently.
There are lots of reasons for this, but primarily staff wellbeing, the ability to reduce overheads and staff expectations.
Many have enjoyed the greater flexibility and autonomy that’s resulted from remote working, and see that ability to have a different work-life balance as a real benefit they wouldn’t want to give up.
Equally, there are concerns.
Not everyone can work from home, for starters – and many of the Chamber’s manufacturing and engineering sector members for example, as well as those in similar sectors, took a pause in March last year, then put safety measures in place and cracked on.
Not everyone enjoys it, either – some miss the social interaction, others might have very little space at home in which to work.
Communication can also be difficult, as can creative collaboration and maintaining a workplace culture.
Junior staff, too, might miss out on mentoring and career progression opportunities as a result of missing that face-to-face interaction with peers.
But what is certain is that there is no reversing what’s changed in the past twelve months.
We have accelerated down a road we were already on, learning a lot about what is possible along the way.
This report looks at what the next stage should be, and how businesses could begin to think about adapting their workplaces for a different way of working – while it focuses mostly on offices, there will be lessons for everyone from the insights presented in it.
It features contributions from Durham University Business School, Atlas Cloud, GT3 Architects, Gallagher, Bernicia, Human Group, UK Land Estates and Art Health Solutions. There are also snapshot case studies of Womble Bond Dickinson, Northern Gas & Power Ltd, AES Digital Solutions and Crowther Mediation as they make plans for the future of their workplaces.
There were five key elements which came through all of the report’s contributions, suggesting the future of the North East workplace will be:
- Hybrid, with teams split between home and office
- Collaborative, with workspaces used for getting teams together and creative work, rather than 9-5 at desks
- People-driven, with teams having a say in how they work and how space is used
- Technology-enabled, to make sure everyone is able to contribute wherever they are
- Aware of people’s home lives, responsibilities and pressures
The report goes into all of those and more in greater detail, as well as featuring four snapshot case studies of businesses who are already starting to make changes.
We’ll be doing a lot more on the future of the workplace over the coming months, so please do get in touch with your thoughts and views.
Knowledge Development Manager