I REALISED THAT IT TOOK THE ‘F’ WORD TO REALLY KICKSTART THE DEBATE.
When Jack Dorsey, Twitter head honcho, added ‘Forever’ to the end of the phrase ‘Work from Home’, it was a big statement. And with it, WFHF accelerated the thoughts and actions of businesses across the globe.
Many other tech companies, including Google and Facebook, issued similar statements. New Zealand’s PM, Jacinda Ardern, suggested a four-day week. But it isn’t just tech companies leading the charge. This has to be the most inclusive workplace debate ever. From retail and services, to manufacturing, logistics and banking. Barclays CEO Jes Staley waded in by stating that “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”
THE MODERN WORKPLACE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN. FACT.
At Cooper Parry, we’ve always been proud to be early adopters of workplace innovation. So we’ve not just taken this in our stride, we’ve embraced it. We’ve always believed in trusting our people to make the right decisions for themselves. From how you dress (our only rule is ‘wear something’) to where you work. And from when you work to how often you holiday.
Play to your strengths, we say. Create a role you’re truly passionate about. Then, work flexibly to design a life that’s right for you.
I appreciate that none of this is new stuff. None of it is ground-breaking. This has been the DNA of our culture for years. Yet in a world of pandemic lockdown, where these choices have been restricted, trust and freedoms have been well and truly tested.
April Bembridge, our Chief People Officer, put it like this when we were chatting recently: “Nobody knows if you’re wearing your PJs on a Microsoft Teams call. And guess what? Nobody cares anyway. You’re still awesome, you’re still smashing it. People are seeing first-hand that kids, partners and pets exist in our lives and that they matter to us. Like really matter. And we want to spend more precious time with them. The mask we sometimes wear to work has disappeared. We are free to be ourselves and no longer wrestle with the work/home split personality”.
WORKING FROM VIRTUALLY ANYWHERE, ANYTIME?
The debate is moving fast. There is a real shift of thinking from the notion of ‘office-based workplace’ vs. ‘working from home’, to ‘working from anywhere’, and even, ‘anytime.’
Right now, many of us have no choice about where we work. But slowly and surely, we will. And when we have that choice, what will we all choose? This pandemic is driving reinvention for sure. At a time of blurred lines, hybrid workplace strategies are evolving faster than ever.
Some of us will yearn to return to the office environment – even if guidelines will change the way we navigate around it forever. Others are embracing the new normal and see no great desire to go back to the old one. Some fancy a mix of the two. The thing is, these are all valid choices.
At Cooper Parry, we’re absolutely clear about our direction of travel. We’ve done our thinking. Worked on our planning. And just the other day, I was thrilled to share with everyone in the business that from the moment we start to re-open our offices, they will have the freedom to choose to work anywhere. This is ‘Working From Anywhere. Anytime. Forever’ (WFAAF). Believe me, the response I’ve had has been mind-blowingly positive.
Of course, each one of our people will have a slightly different view on this. There is no right or wrong. We don’t know all the answers because none of us have been here before. We don’t even know all the questions. It’s all new. And that makes it really exciting too.
A DIGITAL CULTURE FOR A BRAVE NEW WORLD
So, what do we already know?
We know that our new agile digital ways of working are creating a wonderful new sense of purpose for our business. We’ve been delivering remote audits for a few years already, this pandemic impact has simply turbo-charged the process. The appetite from clients is turning into a tummy-rumbling hunger for it.
We know that these crazy, uncertain times have strangely been good for our people for many other reasons. We have less commuting time and more thinking time. Our digital ways of working drive equality and diversity of talent too. They also enable us to juggle multiple life roles. At the same time, we’re wrestling with how much Teams screen time we’re facing versus our loss of face-to-face interaction and collaboration.
We also know that, since lockdown, our productivity has been sky high and we’re already seeing some great and innovative work for our clients. Our high-performance culture hasn’t skipped a beat.
We know that there are so many positives for society and the environment too. We know that the five spokes of the wellbeing wheel have never been more important. And if you want to take this wellbeing wheel for a spin, check out this article.
As we prepare to gradually, intentionally and carefully re-open our doors, we’re also opening a new conversation for everyone at Cooper Parry. And beyond. This is a conversation with our clients and community right at the heart of it.
As The Sunday Times’ 8th Best Company to Work For, we’re rightly super proud of our culture. Our sense of shared purpose has never been greater. But we won’t get self-indulgent about this. Every business should not just be thinking about all this – they should be making it happen too. Yes, we already have a winning workplace culture. Now, we need to reinvent one that works without one workplace – but with many of them.
These are times like no other. This is another watershed ‘OH F**K’ moment for us – and many others – globally. We’ll all be judged on how we respond – rightly so.
We know we won’t get everything right – right away. But we will always be bold. We’ll always put the health of our people and clients centre stage. WFAAF is based on a new freedom of choice. On trust. And empowerment.
After all, this is how we roll.
If you’d like to find out more about WFAAF, our Chief People Officer, April Bembridge, put together a great video, and you can watch it here.