Getting Employees Back to Work Safely – The CEO’s Perspective

The Grand Reopening

With offices reopening and businesses gearing up to welcome back their office staff once again, the ball is firmly in the leadership’s court as to how they balance the wants and needs of their employees as they return to the office, with what is required to run their businesses effectively.

What will this look like and what are the implications both for the organisation’s bottom line and the health and wellbeing of their employees? At Livingston James we have been examining the first reactions of CEOs on tackling the safe return to work and the shift in employee expectations and desires on how they now wish to work going forward.


Hybrid Working

It has been widely reported that hybrid working will be the approach most companies will opt for but wider discussions at board level have highlighted that there will be severe repercussions if this is not rolled out with care. Research from Growmotely conducted earlier in the year found a massive 97% of workers advised coming into the office full time was simply no longer an option for them, whereas in stark contradiction, an article in Forbes reported that professionals wanted time back in the office, both for social interaction and a distraction-free workspace with only 1 in 5 workers saying they would like to work permanently from home.  Citrix Systems surveyed 7,250 employees in 12 countries and 45% noted that if they were to change jobs, they would only accept a role which offered flexible and remote work options.

CEOs’ Back to Work Strategy

Paul Patterson, CEO at Fujitsu, explained that the work Fujitsu had implemented to support customers throughout the pandemic, and the movement of many thousands of employees to home working was seamless and without drama. He did warn that many businesses may suffer the consequences of not getting the balance between home working and office collaboration to an optimum level. He advised that to make hybrid happen in a sustainable way, business models need to deliver a change to employee physical space, and Fujitsu has led the way in doing this.

Recently HSBC CEO, Noel Quinn confirmed that in line with an evolutionary new stance on office space, the leadership team at HSBC will now cease to reside in their personal offices but will instead resort to a hot-desking rotation.

David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, has stated that he wants his employees back at the office. Solomon, referring to the long-term practicality of working remotely said that it was an aberration that they would be correcting as soon as possible.


The Future of Office Life

So, what is the right answer? According to most CEOs, there is not one unified approach to suit all business models or their employees. Young employees need mentors, guidance and direction more easily accessed in an office environment whilst more experienced employees are now striving for a flexible work pattern that reduces the commute and frees up time for family commitments.

Most companies have reported financial benefit by reducing their large costly office spaces with many of their employees working remotely. The savings, however, may be offset by the need to recreate office space to accommodate social distancing and the installation of appropriate health and safety measures.

Employees largely appear to want to operate on a flexible office/home system and those who can’t achieve this within their current organisations, have indicated that they will move for a lower salary to get that balance in the latter half of 2021.


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