Life beyond the crisis: how the new workplace might look and how companies will need to adjust

Last month, our HR Leadership Series events were held virtually and we were delighted to be joined by Bruce Daisley – former European Vice-President of Twitter and author of Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.

Bruce shared with us his insights which drew upon his own personal experience and reflections. Prior to the crisis, Bruce had already been speaking about the shifting rules and codes of conduct on how we work and the challenges to the norms of employment. His work feels more prescient than ever as we look to how we stay ahead of demands for different working while still delivering world class performance. The web event included a Q&A where we discussed life beyond the crisis; what the new workplace might look like, and how companies will need to adjust accordingly.

We hope that you will enjoy the following summary and welcome any feedback you may have.

No going back: building towards a new normal

This is a unique moment in time: the advancements in policy and technology, combined with the burning platform of Covid-19, have precipitated a fundamental change in the way that we work, and in the whole construct of ‘work’. Organisations are no longer wondering how to get to the end of the quarter, but are wrestling with something far more existential: how to build a business which cuts through the noise and takes advantage of trends as it builds towards a new normal. Now is the time to be playful and experiment, without worrying about having all the answers and a concrete plan.

Culture is key

There is a danger of workplace culture being appropriated and used as a marketing tool, with smoothies and slides covering up toxic cultures and unsustainable hours. Organisations need to ask themselves what culture they are trying to build, and how will it want its future Glassdoor reviews to read. Employees will remember how they were treated during this period, and talent will increasingly be attracted to organisations which retain the ‘good stuff’ and learn to adapt to new contexts. How will organisations set about attracting future talent, and motivate people who will spend most of their time away from each other?

A watershed moment in working patterns?

Pre-crisis, many were talking about the ‘tsunami of burnout’, with working hours creeping up substantially and taking its toll on employees. Now we have been catapulted into an experiment of remote working, which may mark the start of a serious conversation about a shortened workday or four-day week. There is a collective ‘back to school’ mentality in September; while this is slightly psychological, companies will need to balance the need to forge a way forward with their employees’ resolution to work from home. Organisations will have to work hard to maintain its cultural glue as working models become more distributed and hybrid.

The future of meetings

There are two big productivity upsides to the office: meeting people by appointment and meeting people by accident. Sandy Pentland’s research at MIT suggests that the most powerful creative impact comes during face-to-face conversations outside of meetings, where colleagues feel more comfortable to speak candidly and air concerns. Are we moving to a more team-based, co-working model, and to a place where we can work our jobs around our lives?