Hearing an alarm. Putting on a tie. Carrying a handbag. Receptionists. Caffeine-filled air… So began the Dettol advert to enrage them all.
Appearing on London Underground stations in September 2020, the advert was designed to invoke some nostalgia for the office. It asked us to clean surfaces (good advice) so we could get back to the little things we loved (fine), like ‘Those weird carpets’, ‘BCCing’ and ‘Proper bants’ (ah).
The backlash was swift, with critics calling it outdated, patronising and self-serving. But perhaps one of its main crimes was misjudging the mood of the nation’s office workers. Rather than reinforcing our collective love for office culture, it inspired a chorus of people to share how much they prefer working from home.
March 2021 marks a year since 50% of the UK went to work from home. And while some of us may have headed back into the office a few times when restrictions were eased, the majority of the last 12 months has been spent working from our home offices, kitchen tables, garden sheds…wherever we could manage.
So have we been changed for good? According to YouGov, 91% of employees surveyed want to carry on working from home at least some of the time after the pandemic ends. Note, the word ‘some’. Not ‘all’.
As a result, ‘hybrid’ is the word we keep hearing from our client organisations. The trend we expect to see is employees finding the best of both worlds, with part of the week at home, and part in the office. Although with the caveat of if that’s what they want, because every office worker’s circumstances will be unique.
This new approach could potentially benefit both employer and employee, such as reduced costs and improved productivity for the former, and greater flexibility and work/life balance for the latter.
Indeed some of our clients have been working in this way for years. One based in central London has the desk space to accommodate around only 30% of its local employees at one time, and from what we’re hearing it’s likely that more organisations will follow this model to create a new future of work.
As with any cultural change, Internal Communications and HR will have a crucial role to play in defining and communicating the ‘what?’, ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ Visible leadership support, complemented by early adopters and ambassadors, can help to drive and embed that change, and sidestep any potential pitfalls along the way.
So whether employees are keen to get back to those weird carpets and the caffeine-filled air, or truly believe there’s no place like home, they will use this experience to choose where, when and how they work. And, of course, which organisations will give them that choice.
A year since the pandemic first hit, organisations are dealing with employees more separated than ever before. What tricks and tools can communicators use to ensure employees at every level remain engaged?
Join Chloe Maple, Head of Internal Communication and Engagement at Vodafone Business, for our Sequel Presents: A Coffee With on Thursday 4 March, 11am. Chloe will share her real-life experience and practical advice for how her team have kept their 19,000 strong, separated workforce invested in the corporate narrative.