COVID Ways of Working – A Positive Change for the Future of Communications?
Julie Mazzei is a Principal Consultant at VMA GROUP focusing on interim and permanent communications recruitment in the Midlands and North.
Coronavirus has upset the business world (and the entire world for that matter) in ways that I would never have imagined and there is a long list of things I could go on about that I have hated over the last few months. However, I wanted to focus on some of the positives that will hopefully go on to change the way organisations work going forward.
To be fair, I have been in lockdown training for a few years: I already worked from home, did Joe Wicks workouts regularly and facetime my parents weekly as we live in different countries. I was already a home working champion before this all kicked-off. I love having a capsule work wardrobe, not wearing make-up every day and will never ever miss the daily commute. I’ve also learned how to manage (to a degree) the importance of stepping away from work which can be difficult to separate when you blend the two places together. I think my colleagues will echo that I have made it work very well.
Having mastered home working myself, I am always exasperated when clients tell me that they need someone on site five days a week as they do not operate a flexible working policy. I constantly question why in the hopes of them seeing that being present does not equal excellence. Clients could miss out on the best candidates for the role if I am forced to produce a shortlist of the best local candidates that are okay with zero flexibility in their working life.
Coronavirus has at least shown the skeptical that home working does work. Employees are still productive and often get more done when they are out of the office environment with countless interruptions and unnecessary meetings. We have learned to embrace tech and used it to stay connected whilst apart. Many have actually gotten to know work colleagues better, as it’s been a window into your home. There has been an opportunity to better understand each other’s personal life and find things in common – be it home schooling woes or sourdough recipes.
Communications has always been one of the most agile and forward-thinking areas in a business, helping to modernize and lead on innovative ways to stay connected. We love tech but also value face-to-face and understand how a balance between the two is the optimum. We’ve seen this in our VMA GROUP reports; our yet-to-be published Inside Insight report from a survey we conducted pre-Covid shows that almost a third of internal communicators already worked from home on at least an occasional basis. Overall, 86% of respondents had some type of flexible working, be it flexible hours or working from home. However, it’s worth noting that our survey had more respondents at senior level, and that options for flexible working weren’t necessarily available to junior level employees.
As businesses begin to reopen, many organisations will carry on with home working options in the immediate future, as there will be concerns from some employees not feeling safe to go back and many others find they just don’t need to be office based full time.
Longer term, I would hope that organisations continue to be open to flexible working for non-front-line employees and do not let old habits creep back in. That they realise presenteeism is not the way to ensure a fully committed and thriving workforce and that flexible working can improve business performance. It means reduced office, parking and energy costs, and often longer hours from employees that use the “commute time” to get work done. The results are an increase in well-being and employee engagement, helping to improve productivity. And if you don’t take my word for it, there are countless studies on the topic; this University of Manchester study found flexible working led to increase in personal and team effectiveness and colleagues were more committed and loyal to the business.
As we are facing one of the toughest challenges of our working lives, there are many negatives we could focus on, but when this is over let’s keep hold of the new ways we have learned to work and stay connected. Let’s not fall into old habits and let’s continue to explore new working practices for the future.
VMA GROUP is a leading international interim and permanent communications, digital and marketing recruitment, and executive search specialist. Specialist practices cover internal and change communications, external communications, public affairs, marketing, digital, and agency services.
We have a reputation for providing leading consultancy services and advice supported by in-depth knowledge of the professions we recruit for. Our thought leadership and benchmarking studies have become go-to resources for the communications and marketing industry supporting planning and decision-making.
VMA GROUP has offices in London, Manchester, Amsterdam, and Brussels, but we work with organisations and individuals on a global basis.