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A new world of work

December 7, 2021

Joanne Reilly, Vice President of Human Resources at G&L, looks at the post-pandemic workplace and asks — ‘what next for the 9–5?’

The last 18-months have ushered in major changes in the way we work and will continue to shape our working lives for years to come.

While some viewed the rapid need for transformation as a problem, we embraced it as an opportunity to undertake a major rethink of how we work and completely rethink things for the better.

At G&L, we believe our colleagues are the most important part of our business. They are the vital ingredient in our growth, continued success and sustaining our global reputation.

As the pandemic took hold, we swiftly responded to it to protect the people we work with and their families while ensuring the delivery of our services and solutions was uninterrupted and remained at the standard our clients have come to expect.

For us, this involved considerable investment in new technology, training, and equipment to allow a seamless transition to home/remote working that has facilitated improved methods of sharing information and made interacting with our international colleagues at global team meetings much easier.

In tandem with this, we implemented new resources and initiatives to ensure staff cohesion, positive mental health and a sense of belonging were maintained.

These included regular email updates, interactive social events and questionnaires and feedback exercises to gather staff opinion on future working options and choices.

As the world begins to reopen, change will once again be on the agenda. However, this time it will have to address several key developments including the continued impact of COVID-19 on day-to-day life, climate considerations and seismic differences in staff mindsets and working practices.

As we prepare to move on, flexibility will be a central feature of the modern workplace. Even before the pandemic hit, the need for greater working choices was apparent as employees sought roles with improved options about how, when and where their job could be done.

As family commitments, concerns over the climate as well as financial and mental health worries came further to the fore, so too did the realization that arduous commutes and long working days to undertake tasks that could be done just as efficiently in an environment that afforded improved work and homelife balances were no longer viable.

For many, hybrid working will be the new normal. Combining time working from home and a reduced physical presence at the workplace with meeting colleagues for planning, key meetings and collaborative projects will give employees a ‘best of both worlds’ option.

This will also involve reconfiguration of office spaces to encourage collaboration, hot desks, improved social spaces and equipment upgrades for new technology to allow seamless video conferencing with remote-working colleagues.

For businesses and other organisations, ourselves included, this tech will be essential in bridging the gap between remote and in-person staff as video conferencing becomes a standard feature of our daily working lives.

It is safe to say that the days of rigid social and physical structures that many companies believed were essential to a productive work environment are well and truly a thing of the past. Instead, we can look forward to more adaptable designs, and communal areas meant to foster teamwork, creativity and a sense of connection lost during the pandemic.

Colleagues simply won’t just go to the office for the sake of it, it will become a purposeful exercise with specific reasons for doing so such as collaborative work, meetings, and brainstorming sessions.

Whatever the changes, they must ensure the health, both physical and mental, of staff are paramount throughout. Huge anxieties surround COVID-19, and employers would be remiss to ignore these.

G&L is adamant that working from home remains a clear option for all our colleagues. It has been proven to work very well for us as a company and is something staff have adapted to according to our research feedback. That said, we will ensure our offices are available for those who prefer to work in them.

The office is evolving and will remain a work in progress for some time to come. However, the final incarnation must be a direct reflection of what works best for the employer and the employees.

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