Here at JMR Global Executive Search, we’ve been talking to our clients about their working practices – is a full return to the office on the horizon, or have they completely changed their method of working to a remote, virtual office.

2020 has been a year like no other for many businesses, adapting almost overnight to a new approach to working practices back in March. The necessity to work from home for an undefined period of time understandably bought with it worry and uncertainty, however, as the days, weeks and then months rolled by the flexibility of working remotely, without the need for commuting has become the popularly termed ‘new normal’, now preferred by many.

At JMR Global Executive Search, we have always had a flexible approach to work, whether in office, at home or from anywhere in the world in any time zone, the only element of business that’s really changed for us is face to face meetings which we’d love to fully resume one day. For some of our clients, the Covid-19 pandemic has bought a complete change of working practice and an evaluation of what the future may look like.

A very broad observation with our clients is that everyone has been working from home. One of our large international clients had put together a phased plan to return to the office this month, firstly with a few days a month and increasing to weekly. They’ve since retracted this plan given the recent rise in Covid-19 cases and are now favouring a shift to remote working until at least the end of the year, firmly adopting working from home as their new normal.

In the legal sector, our clients have been making occasional visits to the office or attending meetings, only where absolutely necessary. It seems the approach with all of our legal clients is to continue to work from home for the ongoing future with no set date to return to the office.

Management consultants are all firmly working from home, with very little push to return to the office, however this is not completely unexpected as they were moving heavily into a new ‘hot-spot’ office environment prior to the pandemic.

In the banking sector, the feedback we have received is that there is very little movement back to office. Although meetings in London are seemingly becoming more frequent, the working from home model is firmly the new normal here, particularly for the upper management and partner teams. 

Conversely, another client in financial services market insights allow staff to return to the office if they wish, although this is on an organised rota basis, with bands or waves returning to the city whilst maintaining a strong emphasis on employee safety. However, the majority have selected to continue to work from home for the time being. New recruits have been inducted virtually – another likely ‘new normal’ for many businesses – but have been given the option of going in to collect their laptops and other necessary equipment, rather than have them delivered.

Across most of our client base it seems generally that workload and working hours have seen an increase, it seems time previously spent commuting is now extra time spent working, while a brief recruitment freeze in some sectors is in place. In some consultancies, the favoured approach seems to be putting together smaller reactive teams that allow for business agility meaning heavier workloads for smaller teams working remotely has become another new normal. Some sectors are experiencing bonus freezes, although job security is now the new bonus.

In summary, what we have gathered from all of our clients is that change had to happen and at the centre of all decisions on working practices this year, and for the foreseeable future, employee welfare is paramount. There is a strong recognition that giving employees choice and flexibility also brings empowerment, there is also a recognition that businesses need to continue to find ways to reconnect with their teams to continue to enable growth, collaboration and inclusion. Now the ‘new normal’ is firmly in place, for businesses to continue to evolve are we looking towards the ‘next normal’? We will certainly report on our findings.

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