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The Snapshot: Back To Work

How will we return to work? And what changes are we likely to see in our workspaces, post-Covid? Looking further ahead, what does the future workplace look like?

Teams across the country have found new, inventive ways to incorporate social distancing guidelines.

Genevieve Margrett, Albert Communications Manager, Albert, part of BAFTA

The TV and film industry has really suffered, because obviously everything had to shut down. A lot of people are freelance. A lot of people didn’t benefit from any of the financial incentives or financial packages from the government, for various different reasons. As an industry, they’ve really suffered.

Having said that, teams across the country have found new, inventive ways to incorporate social distancing guidelines into their productions and some of these measures have had knock on benefits for the crew and for the environment. There have been fewer crews on location, with more members of the team working from home, reducing travel. There’s been an emphasis on local cast and crew too, increasing local economies.

They’ve found alternative ways to film, too. Take continuing dramas for example, they’ve changed the way they’re filming so that they’re in smaller, static hubs, reducing the need for travel. Before, you’d have almost a traveling circus with large crews traveling from location to location. And it’s not just people in cars – we’re talking about trucks and generators too. But filming in smaller hubs they’re able to use less power; they have fewer people milling around. The knock-on benefit is a reduction in carbon emissions.

A lot of the production teams we’ve spoken to are looking to continue with as many of the measures as they can when life returns to ‘normal’. They can see there’s actually a benefit to their budgets; there’s a benefit to the climate and there’s a benefit to their crew – crew are getting to spend more time at home with families, as opposed to spending time on the road.

We’ve seen changes in the sports production community as well. In sport it can be hard to change how it’s filmed because the stakes are very high. The federations are understandably nervous about making changes, but the pandemic has meant they’ve had to. They’ve had to change things to get sport back on TV. Remote working was not really something that the sport production teams had been able to do but this summer, they’ve had to go for it and it’s worked quite well. I think it’s proven to the sports federations that it works, and hopefully that will carry on, too.

Anniken Fjelberg – Co-Founder and Partner at 657 Oslo, a co-working space for the creative industries

We’ll return to work from lockdown fragmented and more creative, with a broader membership group as a result of Covid-19. The smaller start-ups have been back awhile already, while the larger scale-ups still have a divided team – their teams are split into groups where some work from home and someone from the office.

A new thing we experience is that a few corporate clients rent offices in our space, as a result of the lasting lockdown of their own offices. These are companies with thousands of employees and

some of their teams rotate in using our offices. We see that the challenges that Covid-19 has brought have led to a higher level of creativity in the companies that have made it through the crisis so far. Some have pivoted, others have added new offerings, and large companies think differently and how to work as a remote team.

We’re planning on developing offers for members and non-members to support their growth and market introduction, amongst other things. 657 Oslo is a go-to-market hub, where a lot of experts and marketing strategists have assembled around our concept. We’ve also had to be more flexible in finding solutions adapted to the new situation, in order for our co-workers to continue their memberships whilst facing absent incomes for a while.

The European coworker industry has only just begun consolidating, albeit with different roads ahead. Some spaces are industry focused, some are value/culture based, and some are property oriented. It all boils down to finding a community that suits your company’s needs.

We hope to come out of Covid-19 into a kinder, more thoughtful world.

Ann Cairns, Vice Chair, Mastercard

We believe the most important thing right now is to treat people decently and make them feel as if we have a hand on their back, and not in their face. Not just because of Covid, but because of Black Lives Matter and all the social inequalities that are being highlighted during this pandemic. And not least the impact it’s had on women, who have taken on the lion’s share of first line defence work, and many of whom have lost their jobs at a greater rate due to the downturn in the economy.

We have always said that we would never ask anyone to come back to the office if they felt uncomfortable, unsafe or have personal reasons not to do so. But at the same time we recognise that many of our employees are eager to return to an office environment, especially those living by themselves in small apartments in inner city areas, or multigenerational households with little personal space.

There’s never been a better time to put people first, whether it’s your employees, your customers or society as a whole. We hope to come out of Covid-19 into a kinder, more thoughtful world. One that recognises we are all interconnected and mutually dependent, and one where trust is going to be more important than ever.

Pollyanna Chapman, Co-Founder Impact Hub Inverness

We will return to work slowly and cautiously I suspect, with varying degrees of enthusiasm depending on how people have felt about working from home/ being furloughed/ being in lockdown. Assuming people have been working from home (I appreciate the situation will be very different for those that have been furloughed or lost their income/job), lockdown has suited some people and they can’t bear the idea of returning to working in a workplace full time again. Others have really struggled with the lack of stimulus that they get from being in a work environment with other people. And even this latter group have probably enjoyed the lack of a commute every day. So it’s likely that working patterns and behaviour will be more flexible and fluid than before – at least for those that are lucky enough to have a job and that option of flexibility. Many won’t be so fortunate.

We’re changing the nature of the business slightly as we won’t be hosting meetings or offering the space for others to use for meetings. We’ll reduce the number of people we can accommodate at one time because we’d rather not go down the route of screens. As we don’t intend to have meetings, we’ll be able to keep the openness of the office and spread people about by using all of the rooms, including those previously used for meetings. We’ll encourage people to use the roof space for a meeting, or to go for a ‘walk and talk’. This is the short-to-medium term plan, but long term it’s too difficult to say.

We’ll also introduce more cleaning and monitoring – and we’ve bought a dishwasher! But I fear that there will be environmental impacts too, like the use of paper towels rather than washable fabric ones in the toilets, for instance.

Our space will be less busy. People will go in on a staggered basis, and some staff may make use of co-working spaces in order to maintain social distancing measures. More people will use blended approaches of home and office work and it’s likely that some people will move to other more rural locations because they’ve seen that they can work at a distance from the office in a way that we never thought possible – or weren’t trusted to do – previously.

And we appreciate how fortunate we are – to have come through this so far as a social enterprise; still as robust as before, to have remained busy and useful, and to have our health and jobs. For many others it has been a very different experience.

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