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The nature of this change is well illustrated by a panel which included an expert in office design (Michael Fern, Director, Edge GB), a specialist in mental well-being (Marco Truffelli, co-founder, Resilire), a nutrionist (Luxey Dayanandan RNutr, Restaurant Associates), a technology engineer for office and hotels (Javier Aguirre, Director, Zennio) and a recruitment expert (Gary King, Director, Collins King).
Would have such a panel of experts led the discussion in 2019? Very unlikely but the challenges today are very different. The one thing we do know is that it is proving harder than most imagined to entice talent back into the workplace but can this be solved?
This leads to more pressing questions. The Great Resignation is in full swing: how can we retain and develop the best talent? It seems to have become a reality that most offices only operate on a good capacity mid week – Tues-Thursday – will this change and if so, what will generate the change which is so required?
The contradiction of course is that The City has proven itself to be a global centre which has almost not blinked is as strong as ever and central to the world’s economy. City professionals have continued to prosper working from their homes.
Can we re-imagine the workplace?
The debate raised a full range of discussion topics which will be left for many to reflect upon:
• Feedback suggests that the City is averaging around 55% density levels v 2019 levels. It is believed that density will return but over a 3-5 year period, led by the younger generations seeking to build their careers. This younger generation will also influence how offices and work patterns change for the future. The older generations have lost their power to impose their views as was once the case.
• Interesting, research is also suggesting that those returning to offices are wanting the personal touch, friendship, collaboration. Technological advancement which so many heralded is actually seeing numbers drop as many want to experience real service once again. The 19 minute lunch break of 2019 is being replaced by longer time spent socially interacting. People do want an experience, not to return to what existed before. They want to see stronger collaboration, real team work, offices with stronger design which promotes people coming together.
• Service, and the welcome have arguably an even more important role to play in the next few years than pre pandemic. It will all become the personal interaction once again.
• The common theme throughout was the question as to whether this was all a reset to correct the accidential wrongs of the last twenty years. An unhealthy workplace environment was developed. This is not being rejected by employees who do now have the power to say no.
• Technology though still has a major role to play and the advancement will continue to grow at pace. Companies will need real expertise to support as the expectation of employees will grow. It is said that the average house will double the number of Smart devices it has at home by 2025. Offices will need to exceed the home
• Offices will create more areas where the employee can combine work and their leisure. Running tracks on the roof of buildings? More advanced leisure facilities in buildings? Even recreational area – theatres, cinemas, play areas?
• There needs to be stronger relationships today between the employer and the employee. The employer will need to make the running and be prepared to change as the past is not an environment that many wish to return to.
• Nutrition has a central to play as many people see localism, sustainability, health and companies playing a positive role in society as being central pillars. Moreover, companies have an almost paternal role today to play in ensuring the health of their people.
• This led onto the age-old discussion of brand v product. Brands are still as powerful as ever but brands do now need to connect with their audience on a personal level; they can not be a stepped removed. This will see new brands enter the workplace; those where a live relationship does exist.
• Young talent want to work for companies who invest in sustainable practices and want their companies to possess genuine social purpose beyond making profit. The new generations will challenge all in new ways.
• The issue of talent sits right at the heart of the debate. As noted, technology has empowered many to be able to work from home or from remote environments but the real reasons as to why many have not returned to the workplace has been for two decades. Pre pandemic the average working days was 12-14 hours long. 40% of the day was spent in meetings and 3 hours on email. Those coming into offices today are working longer hours when they are there but also wanting stronger social interaction.
• Despite all reports, younger generation will work hard but want to feel real purpose, see good teamwork and genuine, authentic leadership. Leaders can be honest today. They can be wrong. They can be vulnerable. People will reject the alpha and passive aggressive behaviours of the control leadership methods of past times.
• Trust is being rebuilt by those leaders who listen and adjust.
A fascinating discussion which could have continued for hours. This is part of a series of knowledge share discussions on various pertinent topics, with the next discussion event already in planning.