The big return 2: but what are other firms doing?

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What are other firms doing about returning to work? How can any of us work out the right thing to do? I chat to 4 more firms to hear their plans.

Listen to conversations with Beth Marie Norbury from Babcock International, Tom Ellis from Brand Genetics, Richard from a big secret pharmaceuticals firm and Laura Pleasance from Captify. This is addition to Dan Cullen Shute last episode.

Here's more on my survey I put out last week (from last week's newsletter):

We’ve already heard loud and clear that workers don’t want to return to the old days but we’re starting to hear more about firm ordering workers back to their seating plan. L’Oreal US saw some unwelcomed attention this month when they told workers that if they didn’t come back ASAP they needed to authorise the firm having access to their private medical records.

So what are other firms saying is going to happen next? I got just under 100 qualitative replies to the survey; from pharmaceutical companies to start-ups, charities to defence contractors. The replies detailed different approaches from companies as they try to work out how to act next. The main headlines were:

  • Amongst all firms ‘normal’ has been postponed until 2021 - everything at the moment is being framed as interim. 2021 is when firms are expecting to be able to jump start their new culture.
  • Just over two-fifths of firms (42%) have told workers they won’t be expected to return to offices until 2021 if they don’t want to. (26% back from September/October onwards, 31% already phasing some return of workers back to the office from August). This finding is consistent with the straw poll that Digiday performed across publishing and media companies.

Some of the most interesting quotations showing the spectrum of positions:

"[an organisation that went from 4 floors to 27 seats] It’s amazing how many of the things people said couldn’t be done from home could once COVID hit. We’re looking at a total rethink on workspaces and what the future looks like - a place for social interaction and collaboration with the ethos that work is something you do not somewhere you go… there’s no going back”

“We issued a survey to understand what our people feel comfortable with, and on that basis have told everyone no one will be asked to work from the office if they prefer not to for the rest of the year”

[We got everyone back to the office in mid July] “we're an office based business and we need to get used to being back in the office as we can't work from home together. No plans announced on long term flexibility but lots of employees are asking (as are new hires)”.

“The success of working from home, and the fact that so many staff have said they now want more flexibility, has lead [the organisation] to put one of our office buildings up for lease. So a full 5 day return to the office for everyone wouldn’t even be possible”.


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