With the uncertainty of Covid-19 plaguing many UK businesses, the question of “how organisations navigate this quite impossible task?” is one I was keen to find out.
Since the beginning of April, I have explored current global events with over 40 of the best high-growth, startup/scale-up technology organisations the UK has to offer - but is it all doom and gloom, how will companies cope with the fallout of Covid-19 and will Liverpool ever win the Premier League?
I understand these are important questions and I am here to give you some of the answers… well, who knows about the last one!
Over the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down remotely with various SaaS, FinTech, AI, HealthTech, MarTech, AdTech, PropTech and EdTech organisations to discuss what is really going on behind closed doors - here’s what I found out.
Centralised Office Locations or Flexible Working Post Covid-19
The general consensus is no, we don’t need centralised locations. As many tech companies lead the working from home revolution, we’re starting to see the full benefits of flexible working and what it means to each individual. Whether it’s more time for self-reflection, those runs you never thought you’d enjoy, dusting off an old book from your Christmas collection, writing blogs for the first time or just simply doing nothing.
This time is certainly thought-provoking and maybe we need more time to decide, but many organisations are looking at the purse strings and deciding on team meeting hubs, hot-desking, downsizing or just “come in when you fancy” sort of spaces. I, for one, am looking forward to moving away from the dodgy Wi-Fi Zoom encounters, but it’s safe to say the idea of commuting on packed trains or hot buses isn’t getting anyone overly excited just yet, so I think Zoom is here to stay.
As we don’t actually know when the office lockdown rules will be “officially” lifted, it’s easy to speculate the outcomes, but the reality is we’ve just fast-tracked all of the baby steps to facilitate this WFH (working from home) situation that was probably 10 to 15 years away.
There are so many pro’s and con’s to this topic, laid out no better than by The Economist - Death of the office. Some of the key concerns were “losing team/company culture”, “loss of inhouse partnerships”, “onboarding issues”, “sharing ideas” and so many more. Companies are going to have to work tirelessly to retain the above, whether this means several more cheesy pub quizzes, Friday night happy hours, regular catch-ups, or, most importantly, transparency with the people that keep your business alive.
Mental Health in The Workplace
A few of you reading this blog may have already had the pleasure of attending one of the brilliant events we were lucky enough to host alongside the wonderful Maggi Rose – Head of Evolution from Mental Health at Work. These sessions left no areas unturned, discussing the complex subject of our mental health and how we need to protect this at all cost.
The major concern that resonated with the group was annual leave and how to encourage their employees to take time off when they are already in their place of rest. On average people are working longer hours now that the gruelling commute is out of the way. But it’s leaving many feeling overworked, especially when you feel like you’re wasting precious days off to sit in isolation - what can isolation do for your mind
Companies, however, are putting measures in place to break up their employees’ weekdays, from team yoga sessions, your own personal Joe Wicks trainer or a free mental health workday taken off without using holiday allowance.
It’s becoming very clear how important it is to remind each other to take time out and rest, but most importantly staying connected beyond work-related matters.
Attracting New Talent Seeking Remote or Flexible Opportunities
The ‘war on talent’ (which is terribly phrased) has certainly shifted during this time, especially in the short-term with companies reviewing what office life may look like after Covid-19. Attracting the right people into any business goes far deeper than just salaries or office working, it’s about understanding what perks really matter to your employees.
We now have hard evidence from this short window of time, that companies can survive working remotely, but not just survive… thrive! The answer became clear from the various webinars, that continuing to offer flexible working doesn’t only help the employees, but the employers.
It feels like during this transition to WFH, companies have understood that life happens, things do unfortunately get in the way, but by offering long-term flexibility your business could be 13% more likely to retain staff. In addition, businesses open themselves up to new WFH applications, being in a prime position to attract even more local and global talent.
Industry Lessons for The Ages
Although we aren’t out of the woods yet, the last 10 weeks has been the most interesting social event in a generation. We’ve seen businesses of all shapes and sizes rally together, readapting themselves, forming partnerships, and mergers coming from every direction.
From the mega-merger of O2 and Virgin Media, to Starling and Funding Circle’s partnership – CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) and Google and Apple joining forces to fight against Coronavirus. These are just to name a few of the remarkable and ground-breaking business events that have taken place in the last two months.
But all of this effort shouldn’t go to waste, with great lessons to be learned during this tragic moment in time. Why shouldn’t businesses and governments continue to collaborate like Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure” – do we really need pandemics to present these partnerships or can we finally learn from the lessons of history?