What should companies be thinking about regarding their talent as we (possibly?) near the end of lockdown?
First, think about the physical space of your company office. A lot of organisations are shedding commercial real estate. The implication is that employees returning to the office are going to be smooshed together in ever more constricted open plans. Well, that may work for some people but not for others, so do consider also providing flexible, private space. You have introverts; you have neurodiverse colleagues. They will, at some points in the workday, need time to themselves.
Second, think about how you may extend flexible work, giving people the opportunity to continue to work from home at least part of the time. For many industries and functions, an option to work from home is never going to go away now and in fact will be expected from many if not most employees. For example, over half of the U.S. workforce was already working from home at least part of the time before lockdown happened. Most companies have already demonstrated that it can and does work.
Third, when your colleagues are back in the workplace, you now have the opportunity to socialise again. You probably have many employees (hundreds or thousands in some cases) who joined your company during lockdown and have never yet had the opportunity really to get to know their colleagues in social situations. To do so build trust, and that helps to reinforce culture.
This brings me to my fourth point. If you want to build a stronger culture post-lockdown, create opportunities for your people to observe important meetings with important clients and customers. And in that way, they start to understand how you work when it really matters, which is the true test of organisational authenticity. This initiative can be easier when you are physically co-located, so seize the opportunity to demonstrate that being the office does have its advantages. Get people together to observe the behaviours you desire and need for a culture that wins and has fun together, where people would not wish to be anywhere else.
Adam Kingl is Adjunct Faculty at the UCL School of Management, Ashridge-Hult International Business School, an Associate of the Moller Institute at Cambridge University, and the author of Next Generation Leadership (HarperCollins 2020). www.adamkingl.com