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Working from home isn’t flexible working if it’s the only choice you have.

The past eighteen months have been hard for everyone. Overnight we were forced to work from home, abandoning our offices and desks. The challenge of remote working during a global pandemic brought feelings of isolation and loneliness amongst colleagues.  

It has however shown us that with the right technology remote working is possible, enabling us to connect anytime, anyplace and anywhere. It’s made people think differently about work and there’s now an appetite for a more flexible approach. 

Before the pandemic over 70% of our office-based colleagues travelled over an hour a day just to get to our office in Leeds. No-one wants to spend their time and money on commuting unless it’s really needed, and most of us would prefer to spend that doing something we love instead!  

For colleagues with children or other caring responsibilities the changes have helped to fit work around family life, for others it’s given time back for hobbies or exercise and it’s had a positive impact on the environment too, cutting out hundreds of unnecessary journeys. 

It’s also allowed us to recruit talented people from a wider geographical area, and enabled others to move home and stay with us. 1 in 5 colleagues have joined Yorkshire Housing during the pandemic. 

For our customers, a flexible approach to how we work means more flexibility in how and when we deliver services. This has always been part of our long-term plan, and the pandemic has just accelerated the shift.  

However, for all the benefits of home working and the technologies that allow us to connect with each other remotely, there are some drawbacks. 

A recent survey told us that most colleagues have missed face to face contact and want to see each other in person as well as retaining work-from-home flexibility. Not everyone has a great space at home to work from every day, and others have felt isolated or cut off from colleagues outside of their immediate teams. Few of us want to spend all day every day at home in front of a screen and 35% of our people have said they’ve suffered from ‘video fatigue’. There needs to be a flexible, balanced approach to how we work post pandemic.  

So how do we address this? The traditional office-based 9-5 business model feels very dated now. If I’m honest, the thought of commuting five days a week would fill me with dread!  

Our answer is ‘hub, home and roam’. Giving colleagues more freedom and flexibility to decide how and where they work. Hub, home, and roam does not dictate where colleagues should work, instead, our people are encouraged to work from wherever suits them and their customers best. This might be from home, a nearby café or shared workspace, touching down between customer visits while out on the road or from a nearby Yorkshire Housing hub. 

Hubs are important for teamworking and innovation. It’s where colleagues come together to share ideas, collaborate and socialise, as well as sharing those water-cooler moments we’ve all missed. Hubs support a blended, balanced approach to working between home, Yorkshire Housing spaces and other shared spaces. 

Home is where our colleagues who used to work in an office are now based. Most people don’t work fixed hours every day so they have the flexibility to fit their work around their lives, and what their customers and team mates need from them. Only 6% of our colleagues say they’d choose to work Mon-Fri 9-5. Most said they’d rather have the freedom to start and finish earlier or later to suit their day, or take time out for personal appointments or family commitments then return to work later. Home gives them the freedom to do this, is more cost effective and offers flexibility to shape a better work-life balance. 

Roam is for our colleagues who have customer facing roles, such as our repairs team. These mobile teams go from property to property, dropping into hubs when they need to. To enable them to work out in the field and stay connected, investment in technology is crucial. Roam will allow us to meet the needs of our customers at a time that suits them, significantly improving the overall customer experience. Our agile workforce within our communities will revolutionise how we deliver services to our customers. 

As a business we’re certain that hub, home, and roam is the right fit, not only for our colleagues but also for our customers. Getting the design right to suit so many different roles and needs is crucial. So, what should a ‘hub’ look like? 

Our new central hub will feature a range of different spaces for different purposes. It will be technology-driven and aim to create collaboration, connections, ideas generation and learning between colleagues.  

This won’t be a conventional office. The space is being designed to work flexibly for different tasks, there won’t be fixed desks or glass boxes for meeting rooms, and new technology will make it easy and efficient to use. The design also has a big focus on our colleague’s wellbeing – whether that’s quiet spaces when they’re needed or spaces to have fun and socialise. 

The wide geographical spread of our workforce means that we’re also creating a network of other hub spaces that allow our colleagues to work closer to home and within our communities.  

The world of work has changed forever, and colleagues expect employers to change with it. People want a flexible and agile employment offer that fits around them. As employers we must keep up so we can continue to attract the best people to work with us and offer the best possible services to our customers.