What is next for the world of work?

Published on
23 September 2020
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Our special panel of experts look at how coronavirus has affected people’s working lives

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce
Rob Johnston photo
Stuart Davison, Operations Manager, Armstrong Watson
Stuart Davison photo
Jo Lappin, Chief Executive, Cumbria LEP
Jo Lappin photo
Louise Blake, People & Culture Manager, The Cumberland
Louise Blake photo
Has homeworking replaced many office jobs for good?

It will have replaced office jobs where the arrangement suits employer and employee. Some staff prefer working from home because they’re saving on the time and cost of commuting and some businesses see it as an opportunity to reduce the amount of costly office space they occupy.

Rob Johnston photo
Rob Johnston

Definitely not! We need our offices to collaborate, socialise, learn, interact, share ideas. Our offices are a hub of creativity. The future will be a mix of home and office working – luckily we are equipped with technology and kit that enables us to be there for our clients remotely or from the office.

Stuart Davison photo
Stuart Davison

It is clear that Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of a move to homeworking. Many businesses are now questioning whether they need the level of office space that they had previously. Significant homeworking definitely appears to be here to stay.

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Jo Lappin

Many job adverts for office jobs are now being advertised as ‘remote working’. For people who don’t want to relocate or move to enjoy a more rural lifestyle this is an exciting prospect. The pandemic has accelerated the rate of change for remote working.

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Louise Blake
Can people be as productive at home as in the workplace?

Thanks to technology, many can. I think it came as a surprise to some businesses how productive their staff are when working from home. People don’t get drawn into distracting conversations or unproductive meetings as readily as they might in an office environment.

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Rob Johnston

Certain tasks, for sure, and even prior to lockdown we had a good mixture of home/office working which allows people to work at home when needed or to concentrate on a specific task.

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Stuart Davison

Many people can be more productive as the requirement to travel to different locations for business reasons or to move between meetings has gone. Lots of businesses have reported significant gains from their workforce working from home. However, it’s important that people have the right support to work effectively.

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Jo Lappin

We’re seeing great productivity levels. Providing opportunities to regularly engage and collaborate with the team throughout the working day is really important. We all need to look after our health and well-being and often providing structure and routine to your working day with regular breaks can help.

Louise Blake photo
Louise Blake
What are the drawbacks of working from home?

It’s harder for people to spark off each other and cross-pollinate ideas. It’s particularly tough for newer members of staff who would benefit from sitting alongside more experienced colleagues. That’s why some businesses are adopting a hybrid system where staff work at home part of the time.

Rob Johnston photo
Rob Johnston

Not everybody has the luxury of having a space for an office at home – many struggled with working from their bedrooms or kitchen tables while not having the work/ home separation. One person actually said it was like sleeping at work.

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Stuart Davison

The office environment provides an important support network to all team members, which is hard to replicate via video conference. Much of learning by observing, picking up things by sitting together and creating team camaraderie by just being with each other are lost.

Jo Lappin photo
Jo Lappin

Challenges of juggling priorities across home and work, feelings of anxiety and isolation can all impact us to varying degrees. Staying connected and making time to talk with each other rather than email will help to highlight early signs of when someone is struggling.

Louise Blake photo
Louise Blake
Which is more important right now, getting back into the workplace for the economy, or staying away to keep Covid down?

Home working is hurting large city centres. Less so here. In Carlisle, many office workers are out at Parkhouse or Rosehill. Home working creates winners and losers. If people aren’t commuting, they can spend the money they’re saving elsewhere, whether in shops closer to home or on big-ticket home improvements.

Rob Johnston photo
Rob Johnston

Bringing people back into the office will help town centres recover, thousands of businesses that rely on passing trade are suffering while offices stand empty. We are starting to see more staff back into the office in a Covid-secure and safe way which is ultimately a priority for colleagues.

Stuart Davison photo
Stuart Davison

In the medium to longer term, empty units could have a detrimental impact on the attractiveness of town centres as a place to shop, socialise and visit. There could be a significant impact on commercial landlords and the long-term viability of their businesses, if there is a wholesale move away from office working.

Jo Lappin photo
Jo Lappin

Businesses must continue to follow all Government guidelines around homeworking. Some people are needed in the workplace to serve our customers and communities. Wherever people are working, the important thing is for them to feel safe and confident with the working procedures and their environment.

Louise Blake photo
Louise Blake
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