, ,  • November 20, 2020

At our event last week we asked our expert speakers, are we out of the office for good?

In this blog find out what Lisa Gallagher, Co-Founder and Director of Flexibility Works, thought. 

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Flexibility Works is a social business that helps employers create flexible workplaces in Scotland. So we thought, who better to invite to give a perspective on the big question, are we out of the office for good? Lisa is one of Scotland’s leading experts in flexible working, a Saltire Fellow for Entrepreneurship and has served on the boards of The Homeless World Cup, Impact Arts and the Network of International Development Organisations. She also has three young boys aged 5 and under, so is personally and professionally qualified on balancing work and home priorities. 

So, what’s Lisa’s take? “Are we out of the office? I would say in a nutshell, no, I don’t think so.”

“There’s no doubt the pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, including how, when and where we work. Enforced home working has proven that people don’t need to be in an office under the watchful eye of their manager to perform to their best and deliver what’s needed for a business to thrive.”

“The pandemic has accelerated the move towards more flexible ways of working, including working from home. But we’ve also seen that most people miss that face to face interaction from office life, and they still want a place to meet up if they need or want to.”

“The challenge, I guess, is how we transition from the office as a mandatory place of work to a space where people have a choice about what they do there, and when they attend.”

And that’s not just an opinion, Lisa and her colleagues at Flexibility Works have kept at the forefront of research on COVID’s impact on flexible working. Both through their own work and learning from research being done globally. 

“We’ve been talking to employers and employees every day since the pandemic started, and have a pretty good sense about what changes people think may stick after this really strange, unprecedented year.”

“But if we can cast our minds back just a second, even pre COVID the Monday to Friday 9to5 was really becoming outdated.” We’re sure Helen, our event host and Founder of Not9to5 would agree!

“Three quarters of people in Scotland already work flexibly, or say they would like to. This demand ran across gender, age and came from both people who have children and those who don’t.” 

“The desire for flex has not been just about mums on the school run for some time now. Dad’s want more flexibility too. And people want to do things like walk their dog, yoga in the morning, care for an elderly relative, wind down before retirement or manage a disability or health condition by working flexibly. Younger people place a real value on flexibility and work life balance. This is a priority for them when they’re job hunting and often trumps salary.”

Lisa was keen to emphasise it’s not just employees who benefit. “It’s well evidence that flexible workers are more productive, take less time off sick, are more engaged and stay longer with an employer. 90% of Scottish business leaders who offer flexible working have told us this has directly contributed to better business performance.”

And this was all before the pandemic even started. “So that was then. This year, millions of people have been unexpectedly thrown into experimenting with new ways of working and at the peak of lockdown ONS told us that 49% of workers were at home.”

“The global Coronavirus pandemic has required exceptional flexibility from workers and employers too. And I guess really important not to forget that normal flexible working doesn’t materialise overnight, and nor does it involve simultaneously homeschooling your children, for example. So it’s no surprise then, after the mental and logistical gymnastics we’ve all performed this year, most of us don’t want to return to a rigid office space nine to five.”

“There’s been a massive mindset shift. We’re hearing this every day right now.”

“One bit of research we’ve come across from Direct Line says that 13 million people across the UK, about 44% of us, are looking for more flexible working longer term. And certainly from our own research, about 85% or more are looking for more home working.” 

“But we’re not seeing an end to the office entirely. While demand for more home working has rocketed the current trend in demand from our perspective looks like two days in the office and the rest at home.”

“Some people are definitely missing the office, myself included. The collaboration, the social interaction, the chat. Some people never want to work from home again! But generally, most people still want to be able to use an office, just on their own terms. With more balance and more control, over their life and their work.”

Lisa also had some interesting insights into what the office of the future might look like. “I just want to mention Google, which says it expects to remodel its offices to allow for more meetings and events. They want employees to work comfortably and flexibly with points of contact that make it possible to maintain the corporate culture, and to connect in person as desired. So, for a company that’s invested so much in physical offices that were the envy of competitors, I think Google’s willingness to alter operations for the sake of greater flexibility is hugely encouraging.”

We’re employing the same visionary approach as Google with all the hard work that’s currently going into getting The Melting Pot’s new home set up. You can input into this process by completing this survey or joining us at our last Focus Groups over the next couple of weeks.

Want access to a community of like-minded individuals, more inspiring events like this one and a whole host of useful resources? Join The Virtual Pot here.