Watch the webinar
- James Harding, Co-Founder and Editor, Tortoise Media (Chair)
- Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, CBI
- Emma Stewart, CEO, Timewise
- Colin Barnes, Director, Aon
The CBI’s reflections on the tiered system
Matthew Fell, the CBI’s Chief UK Policy Director, shared three reflections on the government’s tiered system. Firstly, being clear about the evidence behind decisions is crucial to compliance. Secondly, clarity is important in helping businesses to plan. For example, it’s not clear how regions move between tiers. Finally, the government needs to ensure that financial and business support comes in alongside restrictions.
In terms of those regions in Tiers 2 and 3, it’s not just those businesses who have to close who are being impacted. For example, businesses who supply to companies in Tier 3 are unable to do so. And for those businesses in Tier 3 who remain open, demand has fallen. But also, those in Tier 2 face the fear of moving up to Tier 3, and the impact of the rules around no mixing of households. According to Matthew, there could be two potential answers here: Further funding through local authorities and re-assessing the balance of employer/government contributions through the Job Support Scheme (JSS).
Timewise’s advice on remote/hybrid working
According to Emma Stewart, CEO of Timewise, the success of remote/hybrid working at this stage of the pandemic is less about technology and more about culture and behaviours. Timewise has been advising businesses on flexible working for 15 years, and Emma shared her three basic principles on how to make it a success: Firstly, good leadership, and leaders articulating clearly how they want their people to work. Secondly, ensuring managers are equipped to manage dispersed teams. And finally, being transparent about the fact that you won’t necessarily be able to give total parity in terms of who can work from home and who can’t.
Emma added that one of the key factors is setting boundaries. People need space, not just a full diary of video calls. It’s also vital to ensure that calls include informal conversations, and don’t just go straight into work. Make sure people with caring/family responsibilities are supported, and ensure your employees take proper breaks. If you do this properly, all the evidence suggests that if you give people control over how they work, their performance and productivity increases.
How we think about the future of workplaces and cities
Colin Barnes, a Director at Aon, told us about Aon’s London Work Travel Convene Coalition, which brings together a coalition of employers to support broader efforts to move businesses and society forward during the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the group is to facilitate the discussion of challenges and sharing of ideas around the immediate situation but also further into the future. One of the key factors in this is around the long-term future of our working environments – involving many related issues such as transport and real estate. What will offices look like in the future?
How to support young people in a remote environment
One of the biggest challenges with large-scale remote working is supporting young people. This is not just in terms of the fact that younger people are more likely to have less-than-ideal work environments at home, but also in terms of their development. Many young people learn by experience in the workplace and are missing out on the proximity to their colleagues and senior leaders. One solution, according to Colin, is to prioritise which staff can come into the office – such as trainees, new staff, and those who can’t work from home effectively.
Emma added that young people are missing informal training and seeing how things work in person. Often these things are taken for granted by experienced staff, but things such as email etiquette and working times, can be tough for young people to adapt to. Emma suggested enabling smaller teams to meet up, not necessarily in the office. Mentoring and buddy schemes can also be really helpful for younger members of staff.
The importance of mental health
Finally, Matthew highlighted the importance of mental health when it comes to remote working. For the first six months of the pandemic, people were focusing on just making it through, but now we’re thinking about the longer term. And business will have a critical role on the mental health side. Matthew suggested making sure everyone feels involved and engaged in decisions around working patters, and also ensuring calls aren’t just used to crunch through to-do-lists.