Workplace Readiness: Employer Perspectives
This was our second webinar in our series of ‘Re-opening the Workplaces’, with a number of businesses giving their own thoughts on how they are preparing to reopen, plus tips and practical advice.
The webinar was hosted jointly by Claire Delahunty, Sector Manager from Growth Platform and Andrew Ruffler, Chief Executive at Professional Liverpool.
Gareth Hitchmough and John Burgess from Grant Thornton, opened the webinar:
- They have an office in the Royal Liver Building and Gareth spoke of how the lockdown had worked practically – once all their IT systems were working, how the focus had always been about continuing to help clients and support staff.
- They conducted regular surveys and identified those staff who needed extra support – they found the key had been lots of communication. Most staff are happy to mainly work from home but they still value the office for culture, coaching, collaboration. Staff productivity was largely unchanged and in some cases improved.
- John talked through a short slide presentation around how a return to the office may look – with radical change expected and going ‘back to normal’ unlikely to occur anytime soon, with only critical office functions likely to return.
- He also articulated how businesses are under pressure to reduce spend on space and how this could happen; plus how some spaces could become repurposed, particularly those outside city centre, such as Hatcham House in London.
Sher Galer from Barclays Eagle Lab:
- Based in Avenue HQ at Mann Island and spoke about how they have fast forwarded 3 or 4 years in the way they are working.
- Since lockdown they have prioritised their one to one support, conducted surveys and switched to a virtual events programme.
- They are offering mentoring services and banking support, as well as focusing on colleague and client wellbeing.
Luke Roberts from Avenue HQ:
- Have a unique set of challenges because they house 1-25 person companies, with two spaces in Liverpool and one in Leeds. They normally have lots of people coming through the doors for events and meetings.
- These spaces have been adapted quickly to accommodate workspace and hospitality and the challenge is how this can be done safely.
- They have developed a document on preparing the office – which covers frequent and deeper cleaning, clear signage which include ‘safe seat’ stickers and looked at the air flow in the offices.
- He suggested adapting meeting rooms, looking at desk policies and checking the commercial agreement with landlords.
Victoria Alderton from architectural company Paddock Johnson:
- Based in Port Sunlight in a traditional building, they had technology in place for home working, but a small number of the team are now back in the office as home working does not suit all employees – with rotation in place to ensure social distancing.
- Emphasised the importance of informal interactions between the team and missing collaborative work – although contact has been continued on Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
- The company is going through a transformation stage but still values the office environment as a way to showcase their ethos to clients.
John Leake from Sci-Tech Daresbury:
- Expects to see a gradual return on a rotation basis, although a small number of companies at Sci-Tech have continued to have a site presence throughout lockdown due to their work in the laboratories for example.
- They have undertaken a thorough risk assessment resulting in plenty of signage, PPE available, and one-way systems in place. Kitchens, toilets and meeting rooms have also been assessed.
- Continuing to conduct surveys and help companies access funding streams.
Suzanne Grant from Merseyrail:
- Emphasised that their priority was currently to provide the best possible service for key workers and those making essential trips.
- More staff are now returning to work and services are now running more frequently. Passengers are being asked to wear face coverings and passenger flow is being monitored.
- There is lots of signage at stations, management of queues in place and increased cleaning across the stations and trains.
- Currently looking at more contactless travel payment options.
- The message is still only travel if you need to.
The overall message was that businesses will make mistakes along the way but are learning and adapting. Communication is essential to help navigate employees through the uncertainty. It is also a time of opportunity with new models and a much wider acceptance and utilisation of technologies to facilitate team working.
You can view a recording of the webinar here.