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A return to work - the same, but different

The 8th March 2021 was a seminal moment in the pandemic. You may have heard the roars from parents up and down the country - noises of excitement, not the speed of the vehicles in haste to get them out the house - as children went back to school. But in reality this date means so much more. This is because it was a step forward on the ‘roadmap to normality’ we’re all hoping for. Like any big journey, the first step is often the hardest.

Return to work

Now that it is done, attention is turning to the wider world. Pub openings, holiday bookings and hairdressers take the headlines but behind all of this - and once the economic starting gates have been opened - is the return to work for many. As the UK’s vaccine rollout continues at pace, businesses and employees alike are starting to prepare for post-pandemic life. Spoiler alert: it’s going to look very different.

Only this month Spain announced it would temporarily move to a four day working week. While at a company level BP has confirmed its employees will be able to work remotely at least two days a week and many of the internet giants have confirmed there is no need for their employees to return to the office, ever. Yet, according to Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon, remote working is an 'aberration', and he expects his staff in the office, pronto. 

Change is the only certainty

As the saying goes, ‘change is the only certainty’, though we can probably add taxes to that as we now look at balancing the books economically. What this means to how we work is highlighted in this excellent piece on the World Economic Forum by Desmond Dickerson, manager, Center for the Future of Work, Cognizant. He looks at four major changes that will define the way we work five years from now.

These include how the balance of remote v office working will look and the subsequent impact this has on employees productivity, engagement and retention. And while this might be an obvious starting point, he also highlights the rise of ‘green collar jobs’ and the sustainability economy, the disruption of professional services via the gig economy and, of course, the rise of automation and AI in the workplace.

The final point being particularly relevant to Enate. This is because while AI and automation is no doubt going to lead to sweeping changes to jobs (like the lack of cashiers at the new Amazon Go store in London) and processes, the focus for businesses must also be on orchestration to realise the potential in these changes. Ensuring that bots are doing the right type of tasks, in the right manner and connected to the right systems to free up people to focus on more high-value work isn’t a default setting with automation. It’s an objective that needs to be actively and continuously pursued if the vision of work post-pandemic is to be as good as we all hope.

Set the debate

All of this was the subject of a Service Providers roundtable we hosted in February alongside Barry Matthews, founder and MD, re-source. It was an incredibly popular session, which is why we ran a follow-up for Shared Services and GBS leaders this month and intend to run more in the future. The engagement levels we have seen, clearly demonstrate that business leaders want a platform to discuss among their peers what the future of work looks like - for them, for the industry and for the economy at large.

Indeed, if there’s anything you think we should be covering, please let us know by contacting the team here, or leaving a comment below.