From ‘back to work’ orders to hybrid hype, office life is the subject of a tense debate. In some places, at least.
Headlines stated last week that Nike is one of the latest big brands to order its employees to return to its office for four days a week.
In the UK, the government is advising local authorities against trialling a four-day working week. It seems only one council is doing this at the time of writing, however.
Neither of these things point to a widespread trend, but parties with an interest in the debate tend to seize on them. For those familiar with office life before the pandemic, how and where we work is a live and intensely personal question. Organisations are trying to find the best approach for their teams and customers, often amidst confusing or unhelpful guidance.
In the spirit of flexible working, they should be prepared to experiment, collaborate and tweak their approaches. Much of the current debate – in the media at least – doesn’t allow for this. Sadly, working life is ensnared in the latest culture war pitting office workers against the ‘woke from home’ brigade. The reality, as always, is more nuanced.
This is the context into which proposals for a four-day working week step in. The four-day week shouldn’t be confused with compressed hours, which enable staff to work their contracted time across fewer days. The difference here is that employers pay staff a full time rate for spending four days working. Supporters say this helps attract top talent, retain staff and boost employee engagement. This piece has some great case studies. Trials by governments in Wales and Scotland will examine these points further.
Despite the headlines, it’s not caught on widely yet. I get why it’s popular amongst staff who value work-life blance. I also understand the concerns behind the questions it raises.
Continue reading “Five questions for teams considering a four-day week”
My recent blog-writing efforts reflect my tired plod towards the end the year. I’ve been busier than ever in 2021 and have not written and published a full blog on this website for a couple of months. I’ve started a few, but not finished them all. Others were overtaken by events. But those I have written have performed better than they did last year.
It’s a fitting metaphor for a stop-start year: grinding, but ultimately good.
Despite the grind, there’s much to take pride from what we achieved this year. We continued to grow as a team and returned to an office in Bristol (briefly). We were delighted to see our client Gravity’s Local Development Order adopted by Sedgemoor District Council after supporting them for more than a year. And I was honoured to collect our first award, when we were named consultant of the year in South West Business Insider’s Residential Property Awards.
With all that’s happened, I’m glad to have found time to blog about anything. It’s an added bonus that people took time to read them. Massive thanks if you were one of those people.
Here are the three posts that had the most views in 2021.
Continue reading “My three most read blogs of 2021”
Work at home (if you can). Get back to work (sorry, the office). Forget that, work at home please. Go back, gradually and carefully. Read the guidance. Businesses must work out what’s best. It’s on you. Fingers crossed!
These phrases illustrate the chaos surrounding England’s official office working guidance during the pandemic. I exaggerate in places. But each statement reflects a government position at a certain moment. Sometimes, ministers even took different positions on the same day.
Navigating this is tricky, especially if you’re not expert in workplace design, occupational health or HR. I’m more used to writing about 600-acre spaces than 600 sq ft ones, and I struggle to visualise how a shell will look when kitted out and occupied. “How many desks can you get in here again?” was a stock phrase used during recent forays into Bristol to check potential new office space.
What knowledge I have is shaped by conversations with helpful agents and dozens of viewings over recent years. Much of this was during COVID, which detonated drastic changes to everyone’s living and working patterns. Once, I nearly agreed a three-year lease on office space before government guidance shifted (again) to work from home. Not signing saved us from paying for a space we couldn’t use.
The process feels fraught with uncertainty and confusion. I know I’m not alone in struggling to find something that works for us post-COVID, as the environment around us remains in flux.
From this muddled standpoint, I’ve watched with interest as people on all sides of the vexed office debate state their case with certainty. As I write from Scotland (that’s flexible location working for you), respective positions around this debate appear to have hardened. Whether it’s work from home or return to the office, it’s taken a binary either/or context.
This is unhelpful when many organisations are looking at somewhere between those points (or hybrid, to use the jargon).
Continue reading “Collaboration, not culture wars, will help us return to the office”
Well, that was a year, wasn’t it!? Although I won’t be sorry to see the end of 2020, it’s brought what’s important into sharper focus.
COVID was immensely challenging, and continues to be. Brexit is distressing, but I have come to terms with it and hope we can start to move on from the sniping. Plate-spinning was relentless and exhausting. I’ve missed people. I can’t wait to see family, friends, colleagues and clients again. And I feel encouraged by a growing willingness to rethink how we live, work, travel and consume stuff.
I’ve written more regularly on this blog and for other titles in 2020, after a couple of years when I wrote very little. Along with daily exercise and music, it’s kept me clear headed and in reasonably good spirits. I will hold onto those habits in 2021.
I’m pleased by the level of engagement in the blogs and am grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to read them this year. I hope you’ve found them useful if you have. Below are the three most read posts from the last year. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, share or comment on these and other posts. It means a lot.
Continue reading “My three most read blogs of 2020”