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The future of work

Originally published in Society Matters magazine.

By Jane Hanson, Chief People Officer, Nationwide Building Society

Along with many other organisations, Nationwide has faced the challenge of understanding how we work in the future.  As we emerge from lockdown and restrictions are lifted we need to understand how to combine different ways of working as we move away from the period of lockdown-enforced working from home.

At Nationwide we've had around 13,000 office based employees working from home during the course of the pandemic and we’ve seen the organisation thrive during this period. Our teams adapted quickly to the pressing need to work from home last March and this approach has adapted and evolved throughout the last year.  The one thing we now understand more than ever is that how we do our jobs is far more important that where we do them from.
This meant we felt there was no need to simply go back to 'normal' and work out how we'd get everyone back into the office. Instead we asked how we could combine the experience of home working with the best of the pre-pandemic world to find a new way of doing things.
Being a mutual the obvious place to start was a survey of our colleagues to understand their views and earlier this year 8,500 Nationwide employees responded to this request to help shape future working practices.
What did the survey find?  Unsurprisingly there was overwhelming support for a more flexible approach to working - 57% of people wanted to work from home full time and 36% want a blend of home and office work.  Just 6% said they wanted to work in an office full time.
Alongside this colleague survey Nationwide also teamed up with Ipsos MORI to carry out wider research on the 'future of work'.  This also showed significant support for flexible working with 90% of those currently working from home wanting to continue doing so for at least one day a week and 60% of people saying flexible working gives them a better work life balance.
Both surveys also set out the downsides of home working - those areas we need extra attention on to ensure people's wellbeing doesn't suffer as a result of flexible working.  For example, we know there is a real need for meeting in the physical world, with 43% of remote working needing face-to-face time with colleagues to do their job effectively.
Other potential challenges include workplace inequality, a worrying Covid 'generation gap' where young people are disadvantaged and the problems faced by those whose homes are not easy to set up for homeworking.
Taking all these factors into account, Nationwide will now be adopting a 'Work, Meet Recruit, Live Anywhere' ethos where we will be asking colleagues to 'locate for their day'.  We'll be asking people to look at the tasks they have to deliver on a particular day and work wherever is most suitable for that activity.  This could be time in the office for an end of year review, working from home on a report or presentation of meeting in a collaboration space to start a new project.
We believe this approach will deliver the benefits necessary for the Society to thrive into the future: people being able to find a way that works for them personally, accessing a more diverse pool of talent no longer tied to proximity to an office and more inclusive ways of working.

Posted by Katie Wise on 19 July 2021