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Redefining roles for a return to work recovery

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Freedom Day - the long awaited moment where we can casually wave goodbye to the pandemic and, by and large, get on with our lives as they were pre-March 2019 (with some modifications). Unfortunately, it has turned out differently and we’re seeing a huge increase in the wrong type of figures. Proof, if any were needed, that a virus is no respecter of dates and plans.

All about the ‘what’

It was also marked as the day workers returned to the office and while there are reports of increased footfall on the underground this week it was certainly not a stampede of commuter traffic. According to this Sky News report, accountancy specialist PWC UK currently has around 10% of its 22,000 staff back in its offices from day-to-day and, while they expect that number to increase gradually, they do not expect anyone to return to full-time office attendance, just as one example. This McKinsey paper gives a good, granular insight into the future of remote work and how firms across Europe are adapting.

But that’s what 18-months of disrupted and remote working will do. We’re now at the junction of seeing how companies and employers react to a redressing of the working equilibrium in terms of when, how - and more importantly, where - jobs are done. But the longer-term effects will also impact the ‘what’ too - what jobs people do, what roles are filled and what impact this will have on skills and employment.

Boundaries and borders

One of the most telling headlines in recent weeks came from Deloitte, which announced that over 500 secretaries were told their jobs are at risk as a result of the increase in working from home. It comes following a separate report from the same company a couple of months earlier that 7.5 million UK workers hoped to work from home permanently once lockdown restrictions have lifted.

This situation is indicative of the challenges faced by both employers and employees alike in evolving to address shifting working parameters - a point highlighted by markets analyst Fiona Cincotta, who works for City Index and who is cited as a commentator in the article. She said “the big question is whether companies and the government will put up 'boundaries and borders' about working from home guidance in order to protect the economy. The pandemic has changed the way we are working and working from home more is going to have consequences for the way the jobs market is structured, where jobs are and also geographically as well.”

The poster boy for disposable business practices 

But it didn't need a pandemic for admin to be considered the poster boy for disposable business practices. For years businesses have been looking to cut it without cost or impact to the bottom line and people have been looking for ways to avoid it, delegate it or move on from it. Unfortunately it’s a necessary part of business as payroll, tax or IT. The issue then is not one of cutting perceived admin roles but changing how they are done and empowering employees elsewhere.

Therein is the beauty of the situation in which we find ourselves in. The pandemic has accelerated changes with remote working and forced us all to think differently about doing things. Papers no longer need to be shuffled and filled in offices but can instead be done autonomously. In fact almost every aspect of administration can be moved to bots and, provided they are orchestrated in the appropriate way, left to run so that people can concentrate on the real business drivers perpetuating a return to office life - creativity, culture, camaraderie, empathy, learning, development and simply feeling the benefits of being around your colleagues once more. 

An inflection point for businesses

Businesses are at an inflection point where they can shift the bulk of administration away from people once and for all and create new roles and jobs to ensure they protect in-house talent. Take HR for example. Individuals whose remit it is to process expenses, pay and holiday can move that to a bot and be set free to look at employee well being, counselling or mental health training - all skills that the pandemic has highlighted as being absolutely critical with more employees than ever feeling stressed or burnt out, as this pieces in People Management examines. 

This is just one example. There are many more and we would urge businesses to look at what admin can be moved away from people to create a better working environment for us all, no matter where we’re sitting.

To speak to one of our team to find out more about how Enate can help on your journey, please get in touch with us here.