For many, working remotely was introduced by necessity when the nation was told to stay at home last March. But some companies had already adopted flexible working before lockdown.
One of these is Schroders, although the asset manager announced in August it had “permanently embraced” flexible working across its business.
Indeed, a survey of employers from professional body CIPD found two-thirds (63 per cent) planned to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working, as working from home became more commonplace last year.
While video calls with colleagues and clients have become normal out of necessity, how can a long-term model of hybrid working that is adopted by choice, be successfully maintained?
Lessons from outside the advice industry
Other companies that had incorporated remote working as part of a flexible culture before lockdown are those in the technology and digital sectors.
Dell Technologies’ UK senior vice-president and general manager Dayne Turbitt says that for more than a decade the company has built a workplace culture based on the concept that work is not “where you are, but what you do”.
According to Turbitt, two-thirds of team members at Dell Technologies worked flexibly on any given day before March 2020, and 30 per cent worked remotely.
“The critical success factor is personal connections. There are many ways to maintain personal connections and encourage collaboration while working flexibly and remotely.
“At Dell, we’ve thought about innovating office design and using shared space – changing it from a traditional working base to drop-in, collaborative, workshop-style spaces that encourage teamwork.”
The ability of staff to do their job at home has therefore put a spotlight on the role of the office as a hub for collaborative working and to foster team relationships, rather than a place for attendance.
Digital agency Clock has also operated flexible and remote working policies since it was established in 1997. Its founder Syd Nadim says: “You can maintain existing relationships over a video call but, for most people, they are built during social events and personal interaction.”
Nadim adds: “When people are in the office, we will look to make the time spent together meaningful rather than just doing what they would have done at home, in the office. We will make time for collaboration, walking meetings, having lunch together, team-building exercises and ideally a social at the end of the day.”
As well as the set-up of the company workplace, consideration also needs to be paid to staffs’ various home offices.
The Royal Society for Public Health warns that employers still have a duty of care for their employees even when they work from home.
Clock’s Nadim says: “You need to consider home set-ups and ensure that best practice is maintained, so the team don’t get back injuries from bad chairs or desks. Just having a policy probably isn’t enough – we have a duty of care for staff that needs to be met.”