Adapting to new working practices & making them work for your business

In this webinar we speak to Steve Stark to learn how the world of work is changing & how we can adapt

60 min read | 7 May, 2021

Following the pandemic, some employees may be feeling anxious about returning to the workplace, while others are keen to get back as soon as possible.

So, what should businesses be doing as we prepare to balance flexible working with a return to the office?

In this webinar, Breathe CEO, Jonathan Richards, is joined by Steve Stark from Then Somehow to discuss:

  • Productivity and lessons learned from 2020
  • The need for greater agility
  • Hybrid, flexible and smarter ways of working
  • Why offices remain important
  • Creating a plan that supports everyone


Webinar transcript

J - This is webinar all about adapting to new work practices, making them work for your business and how we go about navigating our way into this wonderful thing that we're calling 'the new normal'.

S - People are getting vaccinated, lockdown is easing by the month and suddenly we're faced with the possibility of returning to work and going back to the office. Haven spoken to various people working in different kinds of organizations, I'm concluding that it's not a simple thing.

Some people are in - they've gone in to the office at the first opportunity, the windows are open, there's hardly anyone there and they're so happy to be back. Then there are others who are dreading the prospect of having to go back, for all kinds of reasons. And finally, there are people who do want to go back to the office, but not 100% of the time.

So you've got broadly three groups, possibly more, and those of us that run organisations need to think about how we balance the desires and needs of our people, while getting back to business and being as productive as we can be. How do we get the best of both worlds?

Before this idea of lockdown I used to spend a lot of time going to organisations and we'd often talk about all the things that were wrong, about things that were imperfect. So, there's no sense in which being in the office is a perfect thing, but we've also discovered that not being in the office is an imperfect thing which is not surprising - you've got two extremes. We can't rush back in now and assume everything's going to be the same - I don't think it will ever be the same, I think there's been a whole paradigm shift over the last year that we don't even realise has occurred.

It's about our accessibility, about the ability to meet people. Not all of it is good by any means, but a lot of it is interesting, so how do we negotiate that messy, unknowable new way of working in a way that makes people feel safe, included and enabled by it?

J - There was something else that I wanted to add to that. I've just come off a webinar about the UK economy and the economic predictions. One end - the pessimists - seem to be saying "oh yeah we're gonna grow fast" and at the other end, an economist was actually saying we're going to have the fastest growth that the country has seen since the roaring 20s.

So we're going to go into a phenomenal period of high growth with a shortage of labor. So his phrase (I don't particularly like it), "the war for talent", the UK economy apparently now is officially back to what is deemed to be full employment. You can question quality of jobs and everything, but apparently we're sitting at now around 4 or 5 percent unemployment which is effectively deemed to be full and current salary increases are looking at around about 3.5 percent. So there's a shortage of people, wages are going up, business is booming and we need to look after our people.

S - That's really interesting isn't it and that's all with us not being back yet, so that tells you something about 'the art of the possible'.

J - Absolutely. Look at the current situation, you've sort of gone through that it wasn't perfect then and it's not perfect now, speak to us a little bit about the mixed reality of where we are, what we've got to try and pick up on and include in the conversation that we're going to have as businesses.

S - All of us have our own opinions about what working from home has been like. Jonathan you're like me, you're in your middle age, you've probably got a nice house and I've got this space, my family aren't even in it, so I've got a bit of separation from them and I'm incredibly lucky. Arguably, I've struggled to find work over this last year, but actually I'm in pretty good place and and I've not had a horrible time.

I might assume that home working is the universal panacea for everybody because it's been fine for me. But I have spent a lot of time sat here on my laptop on Zoom and I see different people every day in the kind of work that I do. Sometimes I've seen people who are literally sat on the edge of their bed!

I bumped into someone this morning going for a dog walk and she was talking about one of her colleagues and how she can see her bedroom from her workspace. She was worrying if that is appropriate for her having meetings with senior executives in her organisation, and I was like "what else is she going to do?". You know, she lives in a shared house and she doesn't have anywhere else to work. She's probably going crazy having to work in this way for such a long period of time. I bet you the moment she's able to, she'll be out of there and back in the office again because those working conditions are appalling. And to be trapped, particularly at the height of lockdown, imagine being in that house forced, to be with your housemates all the time. It probably hasn't got a garden, so there's limited time outdoors - all that kind of stuff is actually really difficult.

Then you've got people who will have it worse than difficult, it might have affected their mental health and wellbeing. You've got people who have lost relatives, who have been going through a really distorted mourning process. You've got people who might be okay but they haven't really been performing, or they've lost their way because they don't feel connected anymore - they've lost that sense of identity with where they work.

You've got a whole range of experiences that you probably don't understand because you're biased towards your own experience. 

When deciding what returning to work is going to look like, I think it's really important to be having conversations with our teams and making a bit of time to understand what those different experiences are. It's important that you, as a manager or leader of a team for example, properly understand what's going on with your team.

You probably think you know because you've been chatting to them and you've seen them and you've probably had similar experiences the ones I've described - so okay you might know, but do your team know, peer-to-peer, what they're going through?

And most importantly, it's really important for people to feel like they can tell their story about this and feel like they've been heard. Because some people in that team will be going "I want to be back in the office" and others are like "I don't want to be back in the office, even if I've got the injections, I'm still not convinced it's safe. And I can't bear the idea of getting on a train or a bus and being in a crowded space with people in the rush hour. And why do I need to? I can actually do my work brilliantly at home and I can't see the reason why I need to come back".

You've got all those different perspectives, people are going to be worrying about justifying it, so I think it's important to allow people to lay that out so there's a clear understanding of what's been going on for people.

J - Yeah totally. Equally, the thing I'm finding is the fact that somebody thinks something and feels something today doesn't mean to say they're gonna feel and think the same tomorrow. There are some things that change quickly and there are some things that change slowly, but it's not just one conversation.

The other thing I'm feeling is that we've probably got three - six months worth of conversations to have before we get to the point of being where it's completely safe to be back in the workplace. Can we really start talking about hybrid working until the office can be properly opened?

S - Yeah, I mean at the moment it is possible to bring people back if there's a good reason for it, and if you can put those safety protocols in place. And as time goes on, more people will have their second vaccination and we learn that transmission is low for people that are vaccinated - all that kind of stuff means yes, it's going to get easier.

But I think you're right, it might be about an incremental thing. It's not necessarily everything's turned on from the 17th of May or June, it might be more reasonable to think about experimenting with this stuff and thinking about how you engage people coming into work.

Some people have experienced their culture deteriorating during this period because they've been so disconnected and physically separated. Of course coming back to the office makes it easier to feel that culture and have it tangibly there, you know? I think one of the things I've observed is a lot of pre-existing tensions have got worse because of the limited connection and the lack of being able to see body language, or they've faded into the background because people have been less present - you've been able to avoid those things. But coming back to the office, all that stuff will still be there and will need dealing with, so coming back on its own isn't a culture panacea because the culture may not be perfect to begin with.

What I think is really interesting when you talk about 'how do we build a culture' is culture is not something that you can write down on a document or stick on a poster on the wall. Culture is the accumulation of things that people do, their behaviors, the things they say, the stories and narratives they build. So thinking hard about 'how do I have conversations with my organization's people' or 'how do we enable our people to have conversations with each other' - it's a great foundation for enabling a culture that's more inclusive, that listens to people and where people feel valued. 

So why things go wrong? Things go wrong when people feel that they've been unfairly treated, when they feel they've been lied to, when they feel that there isn't equity, for example. So start off with thinking 'let's just listen and let's take all those things into account'. Taking those things into account, what do we need to do to achieve those things? And can we do those things only in the office or can they be done partly in the office and out of the office? What's actually essential and what's preferable?

Then you can balance up the different needs, requirements and preferences for people which I think is a conversation that particularly needs to happen within teams. Because if the team can deliver what needs to be done, I don't care where you work. I would say you should you should come in and hang out, you should arrange all to be together at some point because I think you'd really enjoy it. I think there'd be huge gains from it and those connections would would allow you to thrive when you're not together.

How often? I don't know, anywhere from every day to once a month - I don't know what's right for your team. You're only going to discover that by having that conversation and actually trying it out. Trying it out and saying 'this is the start of a process where we test and iterate' and we come back and say what isn't working, give each other feedback and then tweak it.

 can people return back from the 17th of may good question we're probably not the right people to to to answer that from uh from a detailed perspective but my understanding is that the next round of easing should be happening on the 17th of may um but what the what the actual wording is and what that means i think i think it's still going to be as it is now where each individual company has to has to make some decisions about that on their own uh a lot of a lot of what the government seems to be putting out is to try and get people to to make their own decisions um so that one is is is sort of a depends um keeley's asked what advice can you give organizations that have chosen not to return to an office uh instead continual remote working so this is really this is a really good one and and it picks up some other comments in the chat about you know people talking about silos and things like that so so what i would observe is um a couple of things one is a lot of the problems that we might imagine are coming from remote working like people being siloed and separate blimey they were there before right before it even occurred to us that it was possible not to be in the office people worked in silos and they didn't talk to each other and and so on um and uh so those conditions exist in either situation so it's not really a factor of whether you're remote or in the office right what i have observed the second point to make is what i've observed when i've worked with uh fully remote companies uh and a lot of chat to managers who are brilliant and i said what do you do when you've got a team that's spread across four different time zones who only meet physically once or twice a year how do you make that work and then they kind of say the kinds of things they do and they're things like well you know um we have we have weekly one-to-ones and we have you know fortnightly team catch-ups kind of we have formal formal kind of project things and kind of informal stuff in there as well we've agreed protocols for using chat for for kind of you know um you know non-task-based stuff and and and the kind of you know more gentle conversations or human conversations um we write everything down every meeting has an agenda uh all the minutes are written up afterwards uh and we kind of we put them in a space where anyone can access them uh there's a lot of transparency and they're going through the list of things and i'm like wow there's nothing in that list that isn't stuff that you would hope that people were doing in the office i say hope because i know we don't do those things you know because we can cut corners when we're together right so actually it turns out that the kind of the kind of the soft technology of running remote teams and and developing a culture and and efficiency and effectiveness it's the same stuff it's just done diligently and with a huge amount of intentionality uh and if we just if we if we were doing those things in the office our offices would have been much better places to work as well yeah absolutely so actually it's like it's not new stuff it's the basics done well and of course i think that applies in a hybrid situation where some are in summer out do you think given that there are some fantastic organizations that do that and are entirely office based and there are some fantastic organizations that are entirely remote do you think it's easier to get away with getaway's probably the wrong word with being less polished in the way you lead in the way that organizations are run if everybody's been together is there more give and take i s

okay so yeah um maybe or you get those kinds of um you get kind of you know those what are they called watercolor moments or serendipitous things when people over here and like yeah actually that kind of physicality of it creates those opportunities for those happy accidents um and of course if we'd been more transparent and systematic about way about logging the work that people were doing and you know you might not have needed those happy accidents to alert you to the fact that something was going on right so it's like yeah it is it is a it's a it's convenient and arguably you can you can say well we've kind of designed that in and it and i i totally get that but it's also um you know when you don't have that opportunity then you have to with intention think about well actually you can design it in in different ways so how do we do that yeah um there's a question i can say question from jane leaning towards as much flexibility as possible but is it okay that managers still hold the right to say i want you in in person uh at team meetings sorry that was my emphasis on the word want it's not hidden in caps yeah i um so i think again a lot of this has to come down to i think it needs to be mutually agreed so for example is there actually any additional value in me physically being there or me zooming in right well actually there might be steve because we actually have the technology for you to do that in a meaningful way so that might be a reason or it might be it's like well this team meeting isn't just a kind of task-based project update it's one where we where we want to do some culture building we want it so you should be in for that but if it was just a project task based thing and we're just we're running through a you know i know trello board or a project plan or something like that maybe not so much okay so i think i think you know there's some clarification and there's but i think mutual agreement um why wouldn't you come in would be a really good question you know and um it's like well you know it's because you you know you you hired when i when you hired me remotely i i lived in embraer and you're based in london and it's gonna take me all day in the day to come back for example um you know yeah absolutely um interesting one oh do you have do you have examples of um or templates i'm assuming that's of how to organize the company organize meetings and things better you've got stuff like that on your website um uh yeah we we do have various ideas and things in there we haven't got like a a a ready to go toolkit exactly for this purpose marie damn why didn't i think of that you know um but there's a lot of stuff around um uh remote working we've got some bits on our website around that and there's plenty out there in the ether but again what it comes down to is teams can talk about this stuff because like i said it's not necessarily rocket science it's like recognizing what is going on and working well i think building a practice of regularly kind of reviewing it's like how is it going has anyone got any suggestions because actually you know people are terribly resourceful you know they they've got ideas and actually the more you involve your teams in solving these problems and the more you can get them to practice feeding back and reflecting on on the ways that you're working i think i think that's great because then everybody's owning it right i'm uh i'm kind of i should you know i should come clean like philosophically um you know i'm i i am really interested in ways of pushing autonomy down into organization allowing people the freedom to make good decisions and and so on i recognize the tension with you know with the kind of the desire to control all that stuff but what i keep seeing is you know the the tighter you hold things as a leadership team the slower you go um and and relaxing does introduce risk for sure um but it but it but it can help you move faster and it it frequently leads to happier more engaged teams what about times admittedly unprecedented times like march 24 last year when all of a sudden overnight we all had to go and work at home isn't that a time when the leaders have just gotta take everybody by the scrap of the neck and make it happen yeah yeah um uh uh um yeah there's definitely times when when when it makes a lot of sense to do that but you know what it it it kind of wasn't really i mean no one had any choice did they it was it was the law we had to do it so so yeah and actually leadership in that moment was fantastic the other thing i would say is who knew that you could change an entire nation's workforce overnight you know so i'm sorry where was that where was the change program for that where was the comms plan yeah right where was the temperature

it turns out you didn't need it and you can do massive whole scale change literally overnight that's interesting isn't it what what does that say about the opportunities for our organizations if we if we hold on to that that imposed agility it's like actually we do create a lot of noise and you know barriers for ourselves yeah maybe sam's raised an interesting question which if i sort of try and summarize it is there's there's a lot of scope in this sort of hybrid working some at home some in the office some mixed for maybe things that would seem discriminatory so for instance his example is if you've got a bunch of people doing doing flexible working somehow some not um but then you say the receptionist has got to be in the office for five days a week because that's where the job is do do you run the risk of discriminating against people don't you i think this is a really good point or i was chatting to someone you know third of the workforce is warehouse based it's like steve can't do that from home like obviously it's a physical thing or people who work in you know states facilities and things like yeah okay so um so uh so so maybe this isn't about uh where you work maybe it's about a new approach to flexibility just like yeah okay if you can choose how and when you work and where you work maybe well maybe that could apply in certain circumstances so for example yeah i work in a warehouse i physically have to be there but i would like to be able to do a compressed week so i have a three-day weekend please that could be a way of introducing some uh some equitability in that on the point about the receptionist this came up in a conversation with a client the other day uh and we were just like well um do we are going to need a receptionist in the same way um when we've got all this technology and we're going to have we're going to have we maybe we're going to have few you know less less traffic people coming through and actually if anybody can work from anywhere maybe we could share that role out this was actually a university and it was um it was you know someone front of desk and we were just imagining i mean half seriously but i mean i'd love it if this was possible but wouldn't it be great if some of the senior people in that organization did you know there's enough people there if everyone just did a couple of hours a week what kinds of conversations would they have with their students for example what kinds of connections and what kind of understanding would come if everybody took a turn out why are we you know that you know that that we often undervalue roles like receptionists and there are often people they're often plants there's people that you know they know everybody's name they've got a big smile for people they have a huge impression on people's experience of coming into that organization and we pay them less money we have no status we don't develop them anyway you know uh i mean i'm generalizing here but that's often the way right and yet there are people who know they've got lots of connections and so on and so forth and they've got all kinds of knowledge about how people are feeling and so on and it's all locked up in one person that isn't valued yeah if you just flip that all the way around and make everyone be on reception or everyone you took that person out and you you you thought of other ways of involving them in the organization so maybe it's about just you know it's changing it may be the question for one question just seen a wonderful comment from jane omg imagine the state of the reception desk after senior management have been there for a couple of hours oh that's me yesterday yeah so i love the idea of that that's that's that's modeling isn't it there's been a good bit going on in the chat about managers and senior leaders modeling what what they uh what they would look to happen there's a really um i think real sort of practical questioning from from emily um it's one i've had a bit of experience of lately is how do you handle meetings with say three people in person and three people remote and where i've been in that it's hard it's very hard and i think the the lessons that we've learned is just from a practical basis you've got to base it around the people that are remote because they are the ones that will have the worst experience what one organization i know says uh one remote all remote and they have a principle it's like you know actually uh if it's important if if um you know what's more important that we meet or that we all meet together and maybe if we want to really if it's really important that we meet together we might have to wait longer for that to be possible but if we just need to meet then actually even if three of us are in the same building we can put our headsets on and sit down at our desk and all participate in that meeting and it's secretable then and and we're all on the same you know it's on a level playing field you haven't got that awkward situation where you can't quite hear things yeah so that's that's something to consider we've actually i'm in the office today and that's that's exactly what i've seen going on a couple of times around here is that there's there might be five people in a meeting and two of them are in the office and three of them are remote and and it's all done online as if it was remote and yeah the two people in the office don't get as good of experience as they might have done if they've been sitting distance in a room together but it's better for everybody and i think the other piece i'd say on that one is technology has got to be up to scratch you know the broadband's got to be there or whatever the line is and you know people have got to have maybe have microphones or great speakers and you know it's just got to be together so i think it's going to be one of the big challenges going forward with with this because we are going to want to you were mentioning earlier on about project management meetings they don't need to be face to face they can be online but again that that runs the risk of some remote and some not so you know good good question there emily and i think i think it's going to be something that we're we're all learning look i just want to move it on a little bit um

how do we start having those conversations you're the master of getting people to start having conversations um how do we how do we approach that so we're not you know let's assume we're not going to put out maybe we are put out guidelines and get people to talk about them or put out like google has we think we're going to do three days a week in the office let's have a chat or do you go in much more open than that okay he depends on the organization i know one one uh client that i'm working with i think this week they've just they've just published a policy right they've written a policy and they've tried to kind of lay out a framework and what they're concerned with is that they want to make sure that managers interpret that in an appropriate way because they've left a lot of room for you know localization um uh and they need to because they're they employ about 6000 people and they've got all kinds of jobs there you know you know there's a risk here of us talking there's a risk here of assuming that everybody's office based and a knowledge worker right you know that's significant people are and there's a huge number of people that can only do their job in person right they have to be physically present right um and so you know a one-size-fits-all policy doesn't really work it has to be gonna look locally negotiated um and so they set out some guidelines maybe they've got some best practice in there and then it's like well what makes sense how do you balance those things um uh and and that point about equitability if you are a warehouse person how how do you get you know fair flexibility too what does that look like because suddenly when we're you know we're in this marketplace where there's a shortage of labor then we need to think really carefully about what what attracts and holds people and what kind of flexibility will they want are we gonna our jobs of you know how does that manifest in different kinds of jobs what's gonna redesign the way those jobs work um so i think i think uh so first of all i think some kind of guiding guiding framework is helpful then then encouraging uh or making sure managers understand how to interpret them and then encouraging them to do that interpretation with their teams so that it's locally it works at a local level yeah i just want to highlight you you sort of touched on it there but there's a question in from from jackie a question statement either way it's a good point that circa 50 of the uk workforce yeah do not and cannot work from home shops transport nurses and and all of those people so we when we were preparing for this we were talking yesterday we were sort of saying that when we talk about hybrid working it's easy to fall into the trap and i think the press will lead us to it the hybrid working is sometimes in the office and sometimes not but hybrid working is so much more than just in office out office isn't it it's it's different hours it's different job sharing it's it's many many different things and even those people who might have roles that require them to be physically present so it might be a nurse or a care worker for example they might have to interact with colleagues who don't have um clinical roles um and who might not be in offices or you know whatever so so actually so they're still gonna need to be equipped and actually might be enabled because rather than having to wait for somebody to be in they might be able to go straight to that person it might actually speed things up but again they need to have the equipment to do that and uh you know so if there's a paradigm shift uh it definitely still affects those people in terms of the way they interact with them yeah and and i think it will change people's expectations overall about what about the way that work is organized and what they can expect and how they might expect it to to fit in with other parts of their lives potentially i guess given given other circumstances like hannah's mentioned in the question there's concern about bridging the gap between people who've been furloughed and those who haven't you know we've still got an awful lot of people on furlough who are starting to come back in what what tips on that yeah well again i think i think the first thing i would always do is like get people to share their stories about right what's my year been like let me tell you about what was great about it what could have been better you know because i think um you know those people have been followed they've lost their sense of identity it may be they lost they've lost their sense of purpose they may have lost their sense of connection they might be filled with you know doubts about whether they can remember to do the job all that kind of stuff and they might be going back into a place where there's some hostility like oh you guys got to have a year off you've been on holiday for the last year and we had to work three times as hard you know and i'm not suggesting any of that's fair right but you know there's so that that bit about making peace and kind of listening really carefully about it might not have been all that great not being in and it might not have been all that great having to be in and pick up the pieces you know yeah both sides will have wish the opposite was true for them you know um so getting some some peer-to-peer conversations going yeah i think that's really important between people who've been furloughed and those that haven't of those that are happy working from home and those that aren't i think that's a great idea how do you get how do you get that kind of thing going do you have to say right you two go into the office and drink a coffee i think like so i do an exercise to people and oh god it's really i mean this stuff this is what i do it's my bread and butter so it's really easy it's just easy we just you know we'll get people in room we'll sit down we're going to do this thing and everyone does it and they have a great time but i recognize i do recognize that um uh you know i'm used to that and i've hopefully got some skill around it um but i think um okay right well here's a practical i've got a tool on my website called um uh it's called once and future stories say your name but you know i was feeling a bit you know i was in that mood when i made up but yeah anyway and uh there's a you can download a pdf of the website then and if you search for once in future stories you'll find this thing we'll put some links and we'll do the thing but it's just a really simple pdf that says here's a great way to frame a conversation which lets people share their stories and lets people kind of uh it helps them kind of pull out themes and and have a think about what the patterns are that are going on for them it's a really simple thing to do and anybody can do it and having the guidelines just they have to think about yeah if we spend an hour an hour and a half doing this it might work like this um and it works just as well online if you if you're not yet in you can still do that stuff yeah okay cool absolutely conversations again there's there's some great stuff around conversations um two questions from the same anonymous person maybe different than non-obsolete people previous webinar we discussed appraisals should these be done face to face with distancing uh we're seeing benefits of doing the remotely as people seem more relaxed that's great i think isn't it it's found that there's a different way of doing them you know why are we legislating it's like you need to have an appraisal you guys decide how you do it um if face-to-face social distance well you know maybe not because that totally freaks me out you know or or maybe if we have the window open or what about if we went for a walk outdoors that might be fine so i mean look you know suddenly it's like you know it would never have occurred to us 18 months ago to do an appraisal in any other way than sat down at a table in an office right now we have all of these options it's like use them you don't know you don't have to be fixed you can say the important but it's a great conversation so what's going to be conducive to the best conversation do that it's a walking meeting is a fantastic invention so i've been using it for a long long time but yeah it's a wonderful thing did you did you think of that then was that your yeah i thought about walking yeah absolutely yeah yeah yeah that was your suggestion fairly early on in the pandemic when we needed we were preparing for one of the other webinars yes and we actually went on a walk but we didn't go together we took our mobile phones and our dogs with us and we were walking around different woods but preparing for the meeting so that was that was really good another one about um sort of conversations i guess um a lot of staff with young families enjoy the benefits of working from home not happy about coming back to the office but then there's the senior management team who wants the pre-covered environment where everyone returns to the office how can we create the balance it's it's just not that simple either really is it i think there's there's an interesting trade-off going on there that i think you also mentioned the question about employers and employees um you know what's what's the right what's the right balance for for what the two are there two different communities that need to find balance uh oh it's really interesting how is how is power experienced in an organization you know it's going to be unique to each one or how do employers what assumptions are they making about their employees or how do they how do they kind of implicitly see them and what is that kind of that social contract um between them you know power can be enabling or it can be it can be really constricting um again i'd be like if you're running a business and you're like i want everybody in i just say exercise caution about wielding that power because you know you might do really well to have a listen before you're insistent just you know you might still do it but at least if you've listened everyone's had a chance to be heard and you know that you know all sides have been considered that's always preferable no one likes things to be imposed on them without justification that good reason we always want to know why and why he's such a powerful motivator i guess also that conversation gives the the leaders the chance to explain why they feel right that that no more more office based work is necessary in my experience when i go in and work with teams um and i'm not i'm not gonna i'm not gonna pretend it's everybody but the vast majority of people really care you know they they get a lot of their sense of their their personal satisfaction their self-esteem from doing a good job and a lot most people you know i would i would always assume all of them and i would almost always be right you know are going to have the the opinions like this has got to be done right we've got to we've got we've got to make sure the right outcome happens here i will make sure it happens because i don't want to do a bad job and i want to if i don't no one else will i i care right yeah and if you so that that's my overarching experience now maybe there are some terrible organizations where that isn't the case right and then there's serious problems with the culture but if as a as an employee employer or business owner if you start with that assumption then actually everybody cares and wants to write out the right outcome that's a great place to begin and then and then it's like and they've got some concerns so listen to them and as you say that goes both ways as um lucy do we have many people considering returning to the office full-time back to pre-covered situation honestly i think there are plenty of people thinking that i think there are plenty of plenty of employees who would just love for that to happen and there are plenty who would just love for it not to happen and i guess for me the the main way to think about it is it's not black and white it's not one or the other all of a sudden we're in a unique situation where we have found the other side so we've got a choice of both it's not not black and white i think there are there are plenty of businesses that like we mentioned earlier on where you're in a warehouse or you're a nurse or whatever way you've just got to be in the workplace um but but yeah i think in in answer to your question lucy i think there are plenty of people wishing that

um poll the poll good job good point absolutely so let me just launch the poll you'll see it coming up on your screens um i'll watch as results come through and then we'll close it and see if there's there's any good stuff to share we'll share the results of it afterwards as well um our question these are good questions question from paul um disciplinary meetings any tips for having those online i know they've been going on the hr partner community that we have at breathe have have been been telling me that that sort of thing is still going on oh yeah you know they're they're real killers aren't they i mean they're not fun face to face you know

and and they are harder and um and maybe there's aspects of it that might make it easier so for example you know what are the things we what are the oh gosh my first job was in a radio station um many years ago and i remember my my boss had to had to have a difficult conversation with uh one of the presenters and um it was gonna let this fella go um and he was a big chap and i remember him having the conversation and it all kind of kicked off and he had an office with a really big window and there's this very large man shaking his fist and and and the guy was between my boss and the door he couldn't get out he was scared for his life and he was trying to mime call the police because he was terrified so i always remember that when i think about how bad can it be because um it's never as bad as that uh one one would hope um but i digress uh you know it comes back to intentionality doesn't it you know those are hard conversations so i think you have to work really hard to to set them up be very clear about what's going to happen and the expectations in them you need to be really kind and considerate because they can be incredibly they can be incredibly upsetting for the person concerned but um but they are they are required you know they're required on whatever you know if someone does something wrong they need to know uh and if uh it's you know the very least so they can try and put it right um or if they need to make amends in some way also other people need to know you know that the justice has been done in some way you know um so i'm not really answering your question here i guess what i'm saying is there isn't anything new but i think it is being is doing everything carefully and appropriately and communicating very clearly about what's going on in the process right and i think also if um if people are used to having conversations with you online where you listen and they understand you listen and they know you're taking what they're saying seriously that if it does get to the point of being a disciplinary then everybody's going to go into it with a a little bit more practice in how to do it and a little bit more understanding and and maybe with a little bit more will to to make it go okay yeah but we've been doing this for over a year now right so it's it's not a new thing yeah and in this year uh you know i've had everything from you know riotous belly laughs you know to to honestly that some of the saddest moments and tears and and i've had a whole gamut of emotions that have happened through this distant media i've i've worked with clients and built relation to them i've literally never met them i mean i'm sure we've got colleagues lots of us have colleagues that we've never met you know and yet we managed to make connections so would we rather be with them and meet them yeah you know would i like to give some some of those people ugh when they needed it yeah can't but we do the best we can yeah absolutely um i was just distracted by a question there from marie do you have a road map that that we could share on key dates and markers that would assist smes to create communication to their people i think there's you know from a from a roadmap perspective or dates and markers we try and highlight on the brief blog um what the key dates and you know the various different milestones are as for communicating to people yeah it's an interesting one i think um

again i think i don't think uh you know there's one roadmap that fits all i mean first of all um you know we are um most of us probably on this school are you know we we we work for organizations where we can we can choose when we go back you know we might all be able to make my restrictions might be over in in the middle of june but we might say well we'd kind of think it makes more sense to do this after the summer holidays when everyone's had a break and and so on so wait you're not obliged you know i mean on the other hand you might have people that are desperate to come in you know or you might have businesses that have been absolutely on hold because they've not been able to operate so that would be so there's no one-size-fits-all but i think you know the kind of clue might be in your questions like you know you need to work out your own milestones you need to think about that communication you need to think about how much time you might need to leave for people to respond to that um you know if you think about the example i gave of the organization that's just published its policy well you know you think about if you if you want to create something they're going to do some kind of support to help people interpret that to help managers they've got thousands of people they want to involve in this they need to do a bit of training to get the managers to think about how they do the story sharing stuff yeah they need to have another at least another workshop where they actually have a conversation about how we're going to organize these aspects of it you know so so actually when you start thinking about that it's like blimey getting all that in to 6 000 people before the summer holidays crikey that's you know we haven't got time you know well how many said what are we going to do and some of that might carry on after the summer holidays and yeah uh and so on so it it it but but um so it's so unique to you to your context but now is the time to have a think to start making that plan and work out what works for you and is isn't it a good time to be saying to people i'm thinking about it we don't know i'm thinking about it and that's all i can tell you at the moment but that's it yeah you absolutely should because you know what everybody in your organization is wondering at the moment and some people will be quite anxious because they haven't got any clarity um although we are probably getting better at living in those in that without uncertainty but i think saying we're thinking about it or maybe you know what are your thoughts yeah yeah we've just done a poll what what's stopping you from doing upon them and just checking lots of people have already done it you know and lots of lots of people i am aware of that have done it anecdotally are saying a significant portion of people want something that's blended um and high proportion people want to come in as well and you know they got the whole mix but it's different for each of those organizations but it's clearly a mix and i think also if you have a poll or a single poll um you know there's a there's a comment in there from from janet um completed a staff survey 10 want to return to the office 40 more flexible working 50 want to continue to work from home right yeah and you know one of the things that we found is we've got the office open for a few people who who need to be in who desperately want to be in um and as a few people have come in some people who two weeks ago would have said no i don't want to come in i thought you know actually that looks quite good i quite like that idea so i've switched sides and some people who've come in no doubt will switch to the other way so i think it's it's always going to be constantly changing and we've got to we've got to try and adopt adopt that i'm just looking at the poll results on that so 58 have partially returned to the workplace

um in the next 12 months 55 thinking about a partial return hybrid 77 they're thinking about a hybrid strategy um they are whopping 88 uh the pandemic has changed your attitude towards working from home it's made it possible hasn't it or shown us that it's possible yeah yeah um physical workplace interesting one there how important is the physical workplace in terms of supporting motivation creativity and productivity 37 important 34 quite important eight percent not important well i think it's really interesting isn't it because um you know where is you know where does culture come from well you know where it's experienced you know so where where are your people doing their work that's where the culture is right yeah so if if if the cultures therefore going to be influenced by you know how you use microsoft teams if that's what you're using zoom or whatever and the way that people behave in those spaces so yeah you need to think about all that stuff so given that we're coming sort of towards the end of time um the results of the poll are really no big surprise i guess suggesting that that people are on this webinar people in general are thinking about hybrid um thoughts on running a hybrid business we've already said probably doesn't need to look that different to a well-run business whether it's hybrid office or remote um any you know any any sort of tips around that things to watch out for when you're when you're heading into a hybrid world

uh so i would say um none of us hasn't has the map for this right and in any case it would be different for each organization so i think the way i would engage it is like yeah it's we're making this up we're all making stuff to go along so we're going to try a bunch of stuff and then we're going to stop and have a look and see how it's going and then we'll reflect on that and we'll make some changes um and actually let's approach this as a kind of a kind of practice of continuous improvement you know and actually yeah we don't know what the right thing so we'll just try something and see how it goes and we'll we'll you know we'll we will we'll we'll we'll do our best guesses um i saw there was someone and the questions there saying we've got multiple sites you know how are we gonna we will be going back to the same office like no you know and and and and and and now we've got this brilliant default set of tools that where that really doesn't matter does it um uh uh uh and equally it doesn't matter whether you're on you know you're on campus in in in a different location or whether you're working from home that day if you need to attend a meeting but but again and what's the balance about being together and what are we going to do when we're together that's that justifies everybody coming in um yeah the other bit just i want to come back to it because kate's just mentioned this about again it came up earlier in the conversation about 50 of the workforce can't work remotely yeah so so if we we please don't lose sight of that because if we put all this attention some of us have got organizations which are knowledge-based or whatever you know we don't want to them and us society well i don't want them in our society so so so it isn't so it might not be about where you work it might be just as important or the co and having the conversations about this might you know be about it's all about how you're experiencing the work isn't it it's about how you're creating uh communication feedback processes and system that enable you to work flexibly um

to achieve your ends and that word flexibly i think is really important so if you've got a job that means you cannot do it on zoom then what aspect of your role could be more flexible and maybe we should be thinking about flexibility across the board right and is that about flexibility about the way that shift patterns are done or or or the way you know some jobs you've got to be in for bits of it and then you've got to do some paperwork so how does how does that work i i don't know the answers but i'm really interested in encouraging people to have conversations about that because otherwise we are excluding 50 of the workforce in this reimagining this new paradigm we could probably do better than that yeah absolutely just a couple of questions coming around around a little bit of sort of technology paul's just talking about data security and company security on devices that are remote working and there's no there's no two ways about it it's it's harder to to maintain data security um and i think you know i think there where i would go on that one is it's it's a time for really clear guidelines so that people know where they're at and you know what's what's kind of expected of them i think i think people can make mistakes with data security when they when they don't have clear guidelines they they already do um and yes those things are issues and they're issues which there are solutions for already so it is again it's about it's about having that conversation being really clear what expectations are on how people can protect data and so forth and that's maybe maybe a place to use some of the funds that are saved or hopefully saved from not having to have the office you know maybe maybe it's not actually this but there's maybe not much of a saving to be had by not having an office because you've got to invest extra in could be in technology and there was a question earlier on about you know everybody's taking their screens and keyboards and mice home but now they're sometimes in sometimes out how do they handle that yeah i think you're right i mean it depends where you're based there isn't it because if you're in central london it's probably a lot cheaper to have a smaller office and more computers than if you are somewhere where the cost of accommodation is lower yeah yeah and i guess there's also something around that where we are at a time when supply is in short short supply of computer equipment so it's quite hard to get prices i don't know prices have gone up a little bit in some areas but just basically can't can't get um so once we're through the next period of transition maybe we move into a space where it equipment gets more available prices come down yeah maybe that's quicker you know the laptop is is the desktop dead are we talking about laptops um you know i went to buy myself a desktop for home because i realized i didn't need a laptop and actually i found the laptops for cheaper yeah yeah so there's there's a bunch of different stuff there um some other little bits coming up in the questions jenny dallas what are my our thoughts on a four day week i'm like yes i've worked a four day week since i had my first child um was three days at one point and and even though children now at school well i say i work a four day week but what happened was i started another business on the fourth on the on the fifth day and i've now got a sided company but anyway that would never have happened if i hadn't worked a four day week and it's completely different from my day job i i i vehemently believe that i am as productive in four days as i used to be in five and i get that extra day to do new exciting things with yeah so i i'd be like yeah four day week for all i think and yet you know you might well be that you need to pick the kids up from school or drop them off in the morning and pick the school so five days short short day week could be absolutely and everybody's uh everybody talked about it but our staff are all at different life stages and in those live stages we have different needs you know our knees change during our lives you know i might be a 20 something person that's in a shared house and wants to be in the office because actually a lovely office is a life enhancing thing and then 10 years later i'm thinking about starting a family and you know i've got i've got a home and i am i want a bit more flexibility about looking after young children and then later on again my needs will change so i think thinking about that so lorraine has chipped in there with a very valid one obviously four day week for four days pay and i guess that just puts in another one what about full long days to equate uh normal week's worth of time but i would say from a company perspective if somebody wants to work four days a week and have the fifth day off absolutely for four four days pay that seems that seems fair yeah or work the extra hours and have they spit or yeah well i don't know yeah yeah um oh there's a lovely summary here from jane east i'm just going to read it because it's beautiful uh she says so let me summarize we need a cross-organizational conversation about what works for people yes then a guiding framework for hybrid working yes and then we need to enable managers to operationalize it and communicate it and roll it out yes you've got it and the only thing i would add to that is i would encourage them to review it in three months time say and probably on a rolling basis because i don't think we're going to get it right the first time but but that that's probably good practice frankly uh and i'd add to that a little bit the order is important you know it's not it's not maneuver signal mirror it's have the the conversation first and then use that to put together the guiding framework um it would be all too easy to have the guiding framework in mind anyway then have the conversation and you're only really playing lip service to it but yeah great great summary um look we're we're a couple of minutes away from from wrapping up um i want to be respectful of everybody's time last thoughts what's the what's the first thing what's the thing that somebody could do tomorrow monday uh

why not uh invite people to have a chat with you maybe in a small group you know i depends on big organization is but maybe say i really like to hear from some of you guys about what your experience has been and what you hope for while we think about what comes next perhaps we could get together and have eight of us on a teams or a zoom call and um that would be really interesting for me would you be willing to do it that can't that's not that hard yeah brilliant love it another question steve look it's been excellent as ever really appreciate you this is the third or fourth webinar that we've run with you over over lockdown i know it's a subject that's really close to your heart and you put a huge amount of thought into it how you do a huge amount of work with companies actively helping them with this kind of thing how can people get a hold of you how can people find out more about you uh have a look at then that's um our website there's uh loads of free tools on there you can sign up to our newsletter and we we send out tips and ideas and and and kind of formats for workshops and stuff to get you thinking about these things all of that's completely free so you can have a look at that you can find out more about me on linkedin and you can contact me via my email address which is steve then brilliant okay cool look that's that's been great appreciate everybody that's come along um i know it's difficult to give up this amount of time during the day but i see we've had a lot of people on so hopefully you found it useful apologies to those if we didn't get to your questions um we've had so many come through which is great we will take a list of all the questions i know the the content team at bree that really they love the questions they love the polls because that means they can feed content out onto the brief blog one pointer that i would say have a look at the culture economy report on the breathe website some really interesting fact-finding gone on there during the during the the lockdown um and then also a quick plug for the culture leaders list which we've just launched looking for the top 25 small businesses across the uk who are doing some special things with their employees and with their culture and have sort of stood out from the crowd so we're accepting nominations for that and again you can find it on the breathe website so with that thanks again steve thank you everybody till the next time


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