An opportunity to be flexible!

Last week I must have had four or five conversations with clients. All asking a similar question – when will things be back to normal Lee. What is normal? A return to the old pre-pandemic ways. 

To return to the old ways? That is the question. The answer will lay with the employees. The balance of power has swung to them – not fully but their voice is now heard clearly and should be incorporated into strategies of today and the future. There are arguments from all sides as to the end game here. It is quite easy to jump to the conclusion that coworking operators and suppliers of home equipment are calling for less office time to be self motivated! Just like an office provider saying you are not engaged unless you’re in the office! We need to cut through these views and form the conclusions that work for you and your organisation.

If you look at reasons and rationale you need to look on an individual basis. There is no one size fits all. I work with individuals where working from home is just not an option – lack of space, living alone and living minutes from the office, to name a few reasons. We can’t be forcing people like this to work from home unless they want to – their choice. Likewise though just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have options to go to an office. I don’t mind working from home but I couldn’t do it everyday – for one thing, the cupboards would bare! I need options and different environments. So what we are seeing is hybrid / flexible working arrangements. This is to provide the flexibility to accommodate ALL employees. 

But why does it matter? Why should a business care about their working arrangements? 

  • The war for talent just stepped up a notch. People can work from anywhere and employers are broadening their reach. Allowing people to work from home or their local area means that a San Francisco business can have UK based employees. Your talent has opportunities now. So how do you create a working environment that promotes wellbeing and allows employees to be flexible – basically how do you get and keep the talent. And the answer is not restrictive policies. 
  • To facilitate work from anywhere you need to have the technology infrastructure. Connectivity is a key point but also is being able to access the systems you need to do your role. There is no point giving employees access to flexible working arrangements when the only place they can work is a fixed office!

So what do you do with the space you already have – firstly what space do you need as an organisation? This comes down to how you are going to use the space and what working arrangements you have. The answer isn’t necessarily lease more or lease less but certainly looking at what space you need. The shift for organisations is going to be structural – how do you use space to support your business. 

The space you have needs to deliver on service, seamless technology and be consistent with the wider values and purpose of the business. If you opt for a corporate larger office then thinking about the space you need – you’ll need space for working and space for collaborating. Open space but also smaller rooms for focus. Will training and entertainment happen in the office? Lots to consider. If the options are to use an operator – picking the right one that offers maximum benefit for you and yours employees, for example locations. 

This brings then about the question (and as an accountant a fascinating one) around how do you lease the space you need. You may want to own but that doesn’t seem to be a preference for many! A long lease for many now has many implications. You are tied down to the space that you may or may not need in the future. A long term lease means big numbers on the balance sheet. I struggle to see a long lease working for anyone. The dynamic shift even for a large organisation could mean that even looking 10 years in the future is not a commitment you want to make. 

So some thoughts from me to you. The more you discuss the topic the more you see there is no answer. There are options though that allow you to focus on what will work best for you, your business and your employees. And above all keep it flexible to allow adaptation and change over time. 

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