Exclusive: Workplace guru Ken Corish on how to create a positive work environment remotely
City A.M. reported last week that around two out of five people living and working in inner London could continue their roles remotely after the pandemic, despite the UK heading for Freedom Day on 19 July.
London risks losing more than 835,000 jobs as the pandemic sparks a permanent shift to more flexible working patterns, and city dwellers are able to move out of the capital to other locations across the UK or
But are CEOs and business leaders prepared to let their staff work from home? And how do you maintain a positive and productive work culture remotely?
City A.M. sat down with Ken Corish, the director of Edtesa, a London-based firm that encourages businesses to enforce positive work environments.
Do you find that there is willingness from employers to engage in hybrid working situation?
It is a bit of a mix. Hybrid working is not something that just suddenly appeared. We’ve had a bizarre trial run at this over the pandemic, which was born out of almost an adapt and survive mentality. It was forced on us out of necessity.”
We’ve all realised, both employers and employees, that things can be different and can be better, not across every single employer because hospitality, as an example, needs to have feet on the ground.
This whole idea that we’re using technology to open up a new era for us. Technology has always been there; it hasn’t developed overnight – Zoom’s been around for the last ten years. It’s just that now we’re beginning to see the benefits for employers.
Are most CEOs stuck in their ways and do they want to see their workers clocking in and clocking out?
I would think that, while there are some negative things around this, many businesses have already invested quite deeply, for example leasing the office space. Many of them may still be trapped into longer-term leases on office space and need to see that used to its best effect or be renegotiated. But some of them may require direct customer contact and have to track activity and project the productivity of the staff a lot closer.
So let’s zoom in on the downside of the pandemic and working from home.
One of the biggest things when you involve technology and this blended or hybrid-working approach is that it’s sometimes really hard not to have your working day extended because you’re contactable.
And we’ve seen some companies during the pandemic particularly having days when they will turn their email service off at around about six o’clock so that people can’t be sending emails all the time.
Google themselves as an organisation had days where they designated no meeting days so that you weren’t interminably at the behest of your diary.
So it’s those sort of more radical thinking around this whole thing that actually begins to work. We are in a new dimension. This is about forging a strategy that works for your company and for your employees. There’s no one quick fix.”
And the upside?
Employers have seen some huge benefits over the last 14 months. So they’ve seen a reduction in the expenditure that they pay out on things like travel and expenses for part of their staff. And I’m not talking just about the commute. I mean, if they’ve got to send stuff to another part of the world to go and form a partnership or seal a deal to save money. On top of that, they’re already looking at redesigning and downsizing office space to save money.
A recent report by Accenture said that for employees who will work like three or four days a week at home, you’re looking at significantly 20 to 30 percent less office space. So there are some considerations in this in terms of moving forward, in terms of positive outcomes for employers as well.
Your firm focuses on creating a positive work environment. This seems straightforward but what is a positive work environment?
A positive work environment is a balance between what’s good for the business and also what’s good for the employee as well. We hear this phrase bandied around a lot around wellbeing and wellbeing really isn’t completely all one-sided.”
Whilst you want a workforce that are well motivated and happy to go to work, you also want a company that understands that and provides the right environment for all of those things to happen.
Ultimately, it’s an arrangement between company and employee that gets the best results, the most ethical companies are those who have a valued workforce. So that’s what we try to champion, and adopt models that are positive for both the company, but also for the employees as well. Businesses have a duty of care like any other organisation, and ensuring that the environments they provide are safe, healthy, and allow their clients as well as their employees to thrive.
Someone told me recently, wellbeing begins with listening in the workplace.
A big issue in management today is how can you keep your workforce happy and safe? We all want to see morale high, and stress levels low. But the key to doing so, is having a way of understanding or knowing how people feel – an insight into what their fears and anxieties are.
Wellbeing at work starts with employees feeling they are being listened to. So, it’s important to give staff two-way communication tools to flag issues and personal concerns in an environment that’s safe and totally discreet, really encouraging them to speak up.
Businesses need to invest time and resources in implementing a successful wellbeing strategy. Most organisations may use digital tools to canvass staff opinion but haven’t built the infrastructure nor ownership to develop a sustainable and effective strategy.