With the government recently announcing the phased reopening of non-essential shops, pubs, and restaurants, it seems that the country is slowly reverting to a more recognisable business landscape.
For some, this sense of a return to business ‘normality’ will provide a huge sense of relief. For many, however, ‘normal’ no longer exists.
We know that with the onset of mass-scale remote working, many organisations have had to rapidly accelerate digital transformation projects. Some have even had to start them from scratch. What is only now becoming clear, however, is that worker behaviour has changed dramatically, too.
Our recent research showed that on average, UK workers are clocking in 48 minutes later than usual at 9.30am, and 36% are taking more breaks than they do in the office. Instead of working in an office setting with strict timings to adhere to, employees are starting to take control of their day to fit around their work personalities, and other needs such as childcare.
Many have had additional time to rediscover a passion for sport or baking, as well as spend more time with family when they would otherwise be commuting. Life under lockdown has ignited a greater realisation of the importance of work-life balance.
Changing role of the office
Broadly speaking, many are realising that the conventional work model – that centralises around the office and the nine-to-five working schedule – is a lot less important than we previously thought. Despite the later starts and more time being spent away from the desk, this sudden shift in working patterns has pointed to a deeper truth: that hours worked do not always equate to optimum productivity.
Recent research would suggest that returning to ‘normal’ work is not what employees want, either. In fact, 57% of UK office workers do not want to return to offices and typical working hours.
Remote working, coupled with the right tools, has allowed teams to continue getting results and keeping their companies afloat, all by scrapping ‘normal’ working habits they adhered to before the pandemic. With this in mind, rushing back to this idea of normality without reassessing everyday business operations and strategies will be a mistake for organisations looking to thrive in the future.
Instead, teams should look to a solution which builds greater understanding, and outlines goals and priorities for the time period clearly. The best platforms will offer a space for conversations to take place and be stored, and will provide seamless integrations with other software which is necessary daily operations.
A desire to seek out normality at this time is natural. Undoubtedly, businesses and the world’s economy face huge challenges ahead. However, those who look set to return to a post-pandemic world with a pre-pandemic approach will struggle in the long run.
The new business normality
In order to adjust to what is to come, business leaders need to shift their mindset away from measuring success by the hours that employees are clocking each day, and instead on the quality of the work being produced.
Furthermore, they need to realise that different employees will have different means of being productive, and should look to cater to this with flexibility and transparency.
Collaboration tools can help facilitate the change towards a new normal, by keeping teams aligned and retaining a positive workplace culture, even if this is remote.
Right now, the key mistake a business could make would be to ignore the intel they have gathered during this difficult time about how their employees work best. If applied in the right way, lessons learnt from the pandemic could help us to set up a better way of working than ever before.
Stuart Templeton is the UK head of Slack, a business communication platform.