And there you have it. After over 12 months the world is officially returning to office work 'cautiously but irreversibly’. At the time of writing, that is. As we know, the situation is apt to change in a heartbeat.After the ins and outs of lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing, the pandemic has, at times, felt like the Hokey Cokey. Not that anybody has been singing and dancing. Until now. We’re not yet out of the woods but the vaccine drive appears to be turning the tide against the virus and, in doing so, is signalling a route back to normality.
Should I stay or should I go, now?
The question is what is normal when it comes to office work? We’ve seen a variety of responses ranging from the liberal (work where you want and how you want) to the obtuse (back to the office, now) and much in the middle. There are even discrepancies within sectors.
Almost all the 50 of the UK's biggest employers questioned by the BBC said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time. Goldman Sachs told its UK bankers they need to be ready to return to the office next month - the date on which the government hopes to lift legal limits on social contact in England. Goldman boss David Solomon previously described working from home as "an aberration" but rival investment bank JP Morgan is planning for "significantly" less office space, it said in April (though has since told its UK staff that more of them will return to the office from next month as restrictions start to ease). Indeed, a poll by Land Securities found that two-thirds of London workers would be happy to return to their offices in time for the Government’s June target.
What is clear is that how sectors operate has been irrevocably altered. Banking, finance and accounting, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, telecoms and many more have adapted and evolved which has had - and will continue to have - major implications on day to day operations. From the basics of office processes like; on-boarding, payroll and contracts to the more complex like building culture and creativity, the distortion in how we work, and the roles of human and bot are going to be a key differentiating factor when it comes to restoring new ways of working in the world post-pandemic.
Creating competitive advantage
Businesses should be taking stock as people filter back to the office and critiquing how to improve working practices - like reducing or eliminating mundane and repetitive work - and allowing employees to continue to enjoy the flexibility they have experienced as a result of remote working. Similarly, these employees should grasp this opportunity to shed unwanted roles or tasks that can be automated or turned over to technology while simultaneously using this moment to embrace new skills that can’t be handed over to a machine.
As a result, it is going to thrust the role of orchestration to the fore. It will be a key pillar of competitive advantage when it comes to commerce for the remainder of this decade and beyond. That’s because there has never, in the history of work, been a better time for businesses to make mission-critical decisions around how humans and bots co-exist in the workplace. The recent past has been an anomaly in that it has simultaneously highlighted the benefit of automating and digitising processes, liberating the workforce and proving that these decisions don’t need to be pawed over for weeks or months. They can happen, quickly and business and employees can adapt and move forward for the better.
There’s no one size fits all model to orchestration either. There are so many nuances and subtleties at play that every business and sector is different. It’s critical for decision makers to understand the impact of and the value that can be realised as a result.
A warm welcome to the office return
But that is also why we are here. Our experience spans all sectors and we know that these decisions can be daunting. That’s why we’re building a library of information that, no matter your industry, should be able to inform early-stage decision making. More on that to come next month.
In the meantime, if you have any questions around orchestration and how it can be deployed as your teams are returning to the office, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.