With working from home becoming the new reality for some companies, we discussed internally the impact this could have on internal policies, talent attraction, culture and well-being for our workforces.
Simon, SHB’s CEO and Founder and Jason Pilkington, Associate, shared their views on both working from home vs back to the office. Collectively, as a company, we have experienced both highs and lows and in this discussion we unravel those as well as share views on what our strategy may be moving forward.
At the forefront of this discussion, we discussed the financial impact the Pandemic had on companies like ours, personal income and the support we received. With companies such as Twitter and Deloitte now offering their staff full time ‘work from home contracts’ is the need for a London weighted salary required?
Simon: People have become extremely expecting of financial reward in all situations, not from just staying at home. I think the demands from staff across all sectors are very high these days and it’s not often that companies stand in the way of that but this of course sets a precedent which is hard to reverse or change as you run the risk of losing people.
Jason: It’s really difficult to debate salaries as one straight forward rule because there are so many variables that go into it. I mean, there is the foremost, we’re talking in Central London where there’s a weighting to the public sector. So, whether it’s a company who are office based, home-based or offer a hybrid model, geographically speaking, they need to decide what suits the company best. But second to that, salaries are relatable to performance and at the moment we are hearing CEOs coming out and saying “well, there’s actually been a significant improvement in performance” but there’s also a lot of SMEs that are saying “there’s been a reduction in productivity”.
Simon: Basing salaries on performance and KPIs — I agree with that. Working from home clearly is in its very early stages of understanding how one can be and measuring their success through performance really does seem to be the only way as ‘trust’ clearly isn’t enough.
We concluded salaries should be based on the performance of an individual which is measured through KPI’s. Successful employees who are completing tasks at hand and going above and beyond are going to warrant those salaries, whether at home or in the office.
However, this could be to the detriment of the retention of talent — KPMG recently confirmed they would be implementing a hybrid model based on the fact that they didn’t want to lose staff to their competitors but both Simon and Jason agreed that this could not be directly comparable to a company of 10–15 staff and a blanket rule wouldn’t apply.
Simon: There are other issues under the surface that will and have started to appear in that those that are more productive working from home soon become resented by employees who may feel they are offering more to the business from being in the office which is why providing a clear and concise plan along the way is important. That way, everyone knows where they stand.
This led to a wider discussion around culture and what drives our teams internally — Client Solutions & Flexible Workspace Advisory might argue that they need to be in the office more so than others to create that busy, loud and motivational environment as they are making nearly 100 calls a day. In comparison to the Surveyors who are mostly out of the office on viewings, client meetings and networking lunches and actually the day-to-day interaction with colleagues doesn’t play a part in their productivity. However, all of the above does impact the working culture and for an SME, this is something holding us together and building that trust.
Jason: Being visible in the office to prove you are working is not necessarily applicable to all roles. Comparing the Surveyors to the Client solutions team, I am typically spending most my days out of the office around London and most recently in Manchester and Bristol on viewing tours, so it’s unlikely the Client Solutions team would have seen me for the last few days. As long as the messaging is clear, the same applies in that you cannot offer a blanket rule for everyone and it’s deemed the manager’s responsibility to discuss with the employee what would suit best.
The use of operational programmes such as internal messaging systems, collaborative channels like Microsoft Teams and video conferencing lines, enable staff that are not specifically required in the office, to function remotely. However, without the ability to ‘see’ what the employee is doing on a daily basis, does the trust start to diminish?
Simon: It comes down to confidence and experience of working with one another. The ones that have been in the company the longest and who have delivered (KPI wise) have earnt their respect but for those that are new to the business and have a precedent to set, they should be here in the office, in Central London.
Jason: Taking the onus away from SHB for a second — the larger companies have gone against the Goldman Sachs grain and have said ‘if you have proven your success in productivity, then you’ll be granted a working from home arrangement’ and are then only required in the office for 4 days across a fortnight for the team, face to face meetings and training. I personally sit on the fence and support the hybrid model.
The country is in a state of flux right now and no one knows what the new norm is going to be. How companies function and make money has not been determined yet but what we can be sure on is now more so than ever, we should be communicating and providing clear messaging as a business to ensure we are maintaining that superiority, internal policies and strategy as we go. We then moved on to discussing how working from home has and might impact brand and culture building…
Simon: If you aren’t together, you could be anywhere. I think it has a huge impact — the learning, getting to know each other, etc.
Jason: I think something that will not change is what the impact of learning from one another and collaboration has on a new starter, regardless of what level you are at and in my eyes that has the biggest question mark over it — referring to the hybrid model.
Simon: For a business like ours where our values emphasise collaboration and team work and our residence plays a big part on our brand (we are a property company after all), maintaining this is so, so important and that means a new office when we grow, updating our workspace, offering an open plan and modern style layout and anything that promotes our brand internally. However, that’s not for every profession and there are companies who really aren’t driven by this attitude.
One of the benefits of the Pandemic is that it has accentuated the talent across various sectors and made recruiting a lot harder. Businesses are faced with even more competition than before and offering benefits such as health and wellbeing support, extravagant office facilities such as yoga studios and sleeping rooms, hot-desking concept within the office, flexible working, higher pension contributions, alternative travel expenditure etc. Right now, businesses are being forced to re-assess their strategies, re-calculate salary and bonus schemes and fundamentally survive.
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