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London First and EY lift the lid on the return to the office
24 June 2021
London First / EY report guides businesses through how to plan a return to the office that’s right for them and their employees
London First’s Renew London campaign calls for long-term funding for Transport for London to help the capital get back on its feet and attract workers into the Central Activity Zone (CAZ)
At a time when many of London’s businesses are making decisions about their future ways of working, a new report from London First and EY sets out the key considerations for companies to help them work out what’s right for their organisation and employees.
The report – Renew London: Hybrid Working – shows how different people, with different needs, could combine office and homeworking in the future through a hybrid model.
Hybrid working has the potential to capitalise on the positive impact of remote working — such as a better work-life balance for employees — while also strengthening London’s continued importance as a business hub. It combines the flexibility of homeworking with the benefits of in-person collaboration.
Many businesses are wrestling with the accelerated change to working practices that have emerged out of the pandemic. The report uses different employee personas to provide a blueprint for businesses to consider as part of their return to the office plans – and shows how each of these personas can be supported and incorporated into the workplace.
The report is based on analysis by EY which has considered both business and individual needs for hybrid working. This includes an assessment of the business viability for certain roles to be conducted remotely, resulting in a ranking of high, medium or low viability. In addition, focus groups and employee preference surveys were used to help define the needs of individuals, which resulted in the development of five separate employee personas and their drivers and barriers to working in an office. The personas are:
Team Builder – characterised as someone with more professional experience and managerial responsibilities. Their main drivers for going into the office typically include meeting in person with their team, collaborating on group objectives, and providing managerial guidance and support. Barriers can include commuting time, increased productivity and a better work/life balance when working remotely.
Career Builder – someone with less professional experience, and no managerial responsibilities. The main drivers for going to the office can include the close proximity to business leaders, relationship building and team bonding, and on the job learning. Potential barriers can include commuting time and cost, and if the team leader and other team members are working remotely.
Joiner – someone who is new to a team, whether an internal or external appointment. Their main drivers for being in an office environment typically include on the job learning and onboarding, relationship building, and communicating with the new team. Barriers often include the commute time and cost, and if the team leader and other team members are working remotely.
Carer – someone who has caring responsibilities, such as childcare or eldercare. Their main drivers for being in an office environment can include the ease of communicating with other team members and collaborating on group objectives. Potential barriers to working in an office environment can include the need to balance work with caring responsibilities, a better work/life balance while working remotely and increased flexibility.
Sharer – characterised as someone who lives with friends or family in shared accommodation. Their main drivers for being in an office can include access to physical infrastructure, a better working environment, and higher productivity due to increased space and fewer disruptions. Barriers typically include the commuting time and cost, and increased flexibility while from working remotely.
The personas set out in the report are intended to help businesses to better understand the diverse needs of their workforce and provide a framework to help companies devise a hybrid-working arrangement that works for them and their employees. In most cases this hybrid arrangement will involve individuals splitting their time between an office environment – which then supports London’s ecosystem, with all the wonderful cafes, pubs, hotels and restaurants that rely on people coming back in some form – and working from home.
John Dickie, Chief Executive of London First, said:
“The pandemic has accelerated trends in flexible working and the businesses that will grow at pace will be those that harness and embrace these changes. But there is continuity as well as change.
“Many people have been in their place of work throughout the pandemic – notably the key workers who have kept our city going. And most businesses which have been largely working at home want to get their people together as soon as they can: to share, to collaborate and to create.
“The sooner we can get people back to their workplace, the swifter we can support the ecosystem that makes London what it is – the bars, the restaurants, the galleries – who are still there for us, but won’t be if we leave it too long.”
“As the UK begins to move cautiously out of COVID-19 restrictions, and remote working becomes a combination of personal choice and business need, rather than a matter of public health, London’s companies have a real opportunity to define their future ways of working and to benefit from some of the lessons learnt during the pandemic.
“Large-scale remote working brough greater flexibility and a better work-life balance for many people. But it’s also important that the City continues to value the sense of belonging and creativity that can come from people working together, in person. This will require a new ‘hybrid’ approach to working for many companies, where individual preferences align with business and client needs.
“While we initially began this work to help EY plan the future of its own business, there are observations that we hope will spark conversations for business in London, the UK and beyond.”
Separately, London First’s recently launched Renew London campaign calls for three major interventions that will help bolster a rapid recovery in London and support hybrid working:
Support for the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) – which suffered from a sudden and rapid reduction in footfall, but is well-placed to recover strongly and continue to draw visitors back in. A well-funded coordinated campaign is vital to bring people back to the city, to support the return to the office, to boost confidence in using public transport and to bring back domestic tourists. Hybrid working could create opportunities around new peak workdays and office hours, with the potential to support a restoration of footfall to the retail, hospitality, and cultural sectors.
Supporting the return to public transport – which is an important component for people choosing when and how to work. Maintaining TfL service levels is vital so that those who have a good experience of using public transport are more likely to use the system with confidence again. Longer-term, this requires a long-term sustainable deal from central Government to invest in the public transport the capital needs, moving away from short-term agreements.
Support for reskilling – London lost more jobs than any other region in the UK. Hybrid working potentially increases the talent pool of people able to work in London and gives those already in the labour market more flexibility. The Government should implement an ambitious programme of devolution of further skills powers and funding to enable the capital to operate a London Careers Service and invest in adult retraining.
Tune in to series one and two of What Next for London? to hear views on London, our Covid-19 recovery and more