Returning to the workplace and embracing a flexible workplace

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the working world has learnt much about productivity, flexibility, resilience and compassion. Both employers and employees have had to adapt to working in ways that wouldn’t have been thought possible pre-pandemic, including managing necessary safety precautions, learning to connect with teams through a screen and adjusting hours to address new demands. The big question now though is what can be expected for the future and will employers try to embrace a flexible workplace.

Will the Automotive industry embrace the idea of a flexible workplace?

In June 2020, a Ford survey found that 95% of their employees would like a combination of an at-home and in-person work environment. This led to a six month survery of those who had been working from home since March 2020 and a consortium to determine possible work-from-home scenarios. On March 19th 2021, they announced that 86,000 employees worldwide will have the option of working from home — for good. In July, these Ford employees can return to the office for tasks that require meeting in-person, such as group projects. They can choose to work from home for any other assignment.

Many of the automotive businesses that Copeland work with have already changed (or are in the process of reviewing) their ‘work location’ policy with a view to offering employees a much more flexible working life.

Four steps to re-imagine work and workplaces

Many organisations have already begun to question how and where work should be done and the role of the office in this. The answer is different for every organisation and will be based on a range of criteria:

  • What talent is needed?
  • Which roles are most important?
  • How much collaboration is necessary?
  • Where offices are located today?

If you are keen to offer your employees a more flexible work life, taking the following steps is a good place to start.

1. Reconstruct how work is done

Identify the most important processes for each part of your business, geography, and function, and re-envision them completely, often with involvement by employees. Two factors to consider are:

  • Professional-development journeys (for instance, being physically present in the office at the start and working remotely later)
  • Different stages of projects (such as being physically co-located for initial planning and working remotely for execution).

2. Decide ‘people to work’ or ‘work to people’

As organisations reconstruct how they work and identify what can be done remotely, they can make decisions about which roles must be carried out in person, and to what degree. Roles can be reclassified into employee segments by considering the value that remote working could deliver:

  • Fully remote
  • Hybrid remote
  • On site

For the roles in the first two categories, up-skilling is critical but talent sourcing may become easier, since the pool of available talent could have fewer geographical constraints. A monthly trip to head office or a meeting with colleagues at a shared destination may be enough. This could have a profound effect on what talent is available and how much it costs your organisation.

3. Redesign the workplace to support organisational priorities

You could create workspaces specifically designed to support the kinds of interactions that cannot happen remotely. For example, if employees who work in cubicles and rarely have to attend meetings are asked to work from home, the organisations space can be made to accommodate for collaboration instead of individual work. This would allow for smaller office spaces and therefore reduce costs.

4. Resize the footprint creatively

A transformational approach to reinventing offices will be necessary. Instead of adjusting the existing footprint incrementally, consider taking a fresh look at how much and where space is required and how it fosters desired outcomes for collaboration, productivity, culture, and the work experience.This approach will involve questioning what type of office spaces is required. Do you need: owned space, standard leases, flexible leases, flex space or co-working space? If office space is required for those whose personal situations make working from home impossible, perhaps an office location closer to their home is better.

How will this effect your employees?

As automotive industry recruiters we speak to employees on a daily basis. The feedback we are getting from almost all the employees we talk to is that above all they want flexibility. Most want the team collaboration and social interaction gained from working face to face with colleagues. However almost all value the opportunity to work from home – at least some of the time.

What are the key benefits to the employer?

The benefits to you, the employer, of offering a more flexible work life for your employees are well documented. Here are some of the key ones. Firstly you will have happier employees who will be more likely to be loyal leading to better employee retention. Secondly you’ll be able to source new employees from a much wider geographical area. This will increase the size of candidate pools allowing you to fill vacancies more easily and even potentially save on salary costs. Finally you will likely be able to reduce your office cost overheads buy downsizing and introducing shared work spaces.

Further Reading

Managing Remote Teams

Onboarding New Employees

Copeland are UK automotive industry recruiters who find you industry expert candidates and reduce hiring times – focusing on quality over quantity. 

To learn about Why Employers Choose Copeland. If you’re ready to talk contact us HERE

Let Copeland help you find the right people for your business

Sign up for our salary guide, advice, jobs & more Sign up now