The words of the German physicist, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, are poignant for business leaders grappling to understand and implement post-pandemic organisational visions. What is clear is that we stand at a crossroads facing a seismic shift in the way business works and operates.
Research released by Cushman & Wakefield last year concluded that the pandemic will accelerate flexible working, with 73% of the 50,000 global respondents saying that companies should embrace some level of home working. With women disproportionately affected during the pandemic (Mckinsey estimates that women have accounted for 54% of pandemic-related job losses whilst they make up just one third of the global labour force) this provides hope that change will encourage some women back into work, attracted by this new flexibility, and will reduce the number who leave the workplace annually because they’re unable to reconcile career and family commitments. Greater female representation in management and C-suite positions is the key to transformative change from the top down to ensure a pipeline of future talent.
How can CEOs and HR Directors keep large and disparate workforces engaged and connected to company culture? Last year our everywomanNetwork heard from Despina Katsikakis, a global workplace pioneer who has transformed employee wellbeing and business performance for major corporations including Microsoft and Barclays. She foresees that offices will become ecosystems, comprising multiple locations and experiences to support convenience, functionality and wellbeing. The primary role of the office will therefore change to provide inspiring destinations that strengthen cultural connection, learning, bonding with customers and colleagues, fostering creativity and supporting innovation.
The decentralisation of city-based headquarters and an increase in more localised, satellite hubs might just be the lifeline our regional towns so desperately need. Two further positives are the estimated 45% carbon footprint reduction resulting from less commuting along with the average 164 hours spent commuting annually will likely be split between increased productivity and well-being.
The everywoman Network has seen substantial uplift since the first lockdown, with users engaging with content that helps them manage the specific challenges of home working. Personal development tools enabling members to upskill sit alongside advice for parents juggling work and home schooling whilst virtual coffee mornings help to counter isolation and inspirational speakers offer words of encouragement and hope.
If one thing is certain, it is that the changes emerging from the devastation of the pandemic have the potential to transform the way we live and work for the better, creating a more equitable existence with wider society sharing the gains. Business has a once in a generation opportunity to recalibrate a working environment that benefits both employer and employee.
In short, we can’t go back to ‘normal’, because normal was the problem.
Karen Gill MBE is co-founder of everywoman whose clients include Accenture, EY, RBS, Barclaycard, Amazon and Facebook. everywoman is a global platform for women in business that drives positive change by empowering women to achieve their professional potential. Established in 1999, everywoman has supported thousands of women worldwide in establishing businesses and progressing their careers. Working with leading corporations and organisations, everywoman improves productivity and performance through diversity insights to unlock female potential resulting in economic and societal gain. Through its cross-industry awards and forums everywoman has created thousands of female role models and inspired generations of future leaders.