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The Future of Work – empowering your most valuable assets: people

Danny Hicks, Blue Door Programmes, discusses the second of three new whitepapers from O2 Business focused on key future of work themes.

In my previous post, we looked at places – Where will we be working in the future? And how are organisations rethinking about where people are able to be their best?

In this post, we consider people – the freedom, flexibility and future of the dynamic workforce. I met up online with Ant Morse, to talk about the people aspect of what’s ahead of us as businesses start to reopen their office doors.

Listen to the Blue Door Podcast, Episode 18: ‘Future of work: People. Empowering your most valuable assets.’

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Ant Morse is O2’s Head of Digital Solutions – Enterprise. He helps our customers identify and deploy useful digital solutions to support their business and people, which is fortunate because he is slightly obsessed with digital technology. I asked him what he thought was the single biggest challenge facing HR teams right now:

“I think there’s a consistent concern about how we actually manage people moving forward. We’re now in a position where we’ve acknowledged and accepted that the changes we have witnessed are not a temporary situation. In fact, this is historic evolution, perhaps our own digital revolution.

“It was happening anyway, but COVID has accelerated it, and most businesses are planning for a hybrid model for a return to work. The challenge ahead is defining how to manage virtual versus physical, everything from coaching to one to ones, to challenging conversations, and everything in between.”

O2’s whitepaper research backs up what Ant says. It reveals that nine out of ten job seekers want increased flexibility, at a time when more and more people have caring and family roles and responsibilities outside of work. The traditional nine to five format no longer cuts it.

Ant admits that this demand for change has come despite everyone he knows having worked longer hours during lockdown. Nevertheless, people are making good use of the time that previously would have been spent travelling, and that’s something that people are not going to give back readily. Work and life have had an opportunity to become far more intertwined than ever before, and there will be difficulties in unravelling them. However, if we can use our time more effectively, and flex the hours and locations we work, then it opens up a number of opportunities:

“It gives people a fantastic opportunity to fit work in around other commitments. We all know the 5am club – you know – the ones who are up and online early in the morning. With a hybrid working model, maybe they could finish far earlier in the day, and go and do other things they want to do.

“It also opens up the workforce significantly. There is a vast army of highly skilled individuals out there that are not in full time employment for one reason or another. Introducing flexibility could enable businesses to access that talent, and bring those people back into the workforce.”

Introducing flexibility, however, raises a number of other questions. During our podcast discussion we look to answer several key questions:

  • How practical is the notion of a four day week?
  • Do employees really know best?
  • What can HR teams do to accommodate the workers who want to return alongside those who want to continue working remotely?
  • What impact does a business’ working model have on recruitment and retention?

You can listen to the whole discussion in Episode 18 of the Blue Door Podcast. You can stream, download or subscribe to the podcast here.

You can also access all three white papers, considering the three core areas to enable a dynamic workforce:

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