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Communicating about the future of work

August 2, 2021

There used to be a beautiful simplicity about the office. I got up every morning for over 25 years and went to an office somewhere in the world. Now in 2021, Allison & Partners’ stunning cathedral-like workspace in Kings Cross has been closed for over 16 months. What happens next and how do we build awareness, trust, and leadership for our clients as they tackle this new paradigm of workplace culture?

The last year and a half has impacted every aspect of our lives, through an extraordinary series of events linked to global health, social justice, and travel to education and the global economy. Throughout this period, organisations have been asked to step up and contribute on behalf of all their stakeholders.

Our role is to counsel our clients on how to take a stand on important issues and also how to effectively communicate their position. What does the future of work look like? How bold and different will it be? What will your plan say about your company? How will it impact your colleagues, and in the current climate, what signal will it send to future employees and clients?

As offices start to reopen, the return-to-work plan will differ depending on the sector. In communications, we have successfully adapted to working from home, and at A&P our approach is to explore a smart blend of office and home-based routines, managed by smart tech. We are exploring new and creative ways to use our office space, such as bringing colleagues together as groups for planning, pitching, and social activities.

Whether it's banking and finance, big tech, or media, some of the world’s best-known companies have made strident calls about their back-to-work strategy, only to be heavily criticised or even have to change their plans. What do leaders need to be thinking about as they prepare and communicate their plans for the big return?

  • Your external landscape: Study other organisations. What has worked and what hasn’t during the past 16 months? Listen to peers, competitors, other leaders, and observe other sectors in addition to your own. Invite external voices in to get an outside perspective.
  • Your mission: Make sure you continue to prioritise your own organisation’s mission. What do you stand for and how will your plan reflect your values and culture?
  • Your people: Get as much insight from your people as possible. We have done a series of anonymous pulse surveys throughout the pandemic with a mixture of qual and quant to get a good sense of how colleagues are feeling over time.
  • Your strategy: Really stretch the thinking and be as creative as possible from the outset. Our creative process has always encouraged limitless thinking to ensure we play to the edges of what is possible. Then you can use the balance of what colleagues want against the needs of the business to craft a robust strategy.
  • Your communications: Take a stand, be intentional and most importantly empower your colleagues with compelling communications that they can truly buy into before sharing externally. Talk about the impact of what you are doing on the lives of those you work with rather than just the features and functions of your new strategy.
  • Your future: These days most plans are iterative. Make sure to capture as much data as possible on how your plan is working by communicating with all stakeholders. Continue to survey your colleagues, clients, and others and use that insight to update plans accordingly. These are unprecedented times, and it is understandable that plans need to change. Make sure to take your people on the journey with you through clear and constant communication. Transparency builds trust and allows for an employer to get it wrong without losing the confidence of its people.

The return to work will mean changes for most of us in the way that we engage with our office, and the next few months will be hugely important in defining whether or not these changes will be for the long term. If we have learned anything from the extraordinary events of the last year and a half, it is that technology has enabled effective remote working but not all the elements that are important to a business can be run virtually. Apprenticeship, relationship building, and most importantly culture cannot be replicated in a virtual setting, so while the office might feel a little different when we return, it is still part of the connective tissue that binds an organisation together.

About the author

Jim Selman is a partner and MD in the Allison & Partners' London office. He oversees the business operations, growth, and staff development of Allison & Partners’ UK and Ireland teams. He also provides strategic counsel to a variety of clients in the region. Jim’s rich 20-year career has spanned consumer, corporate, and entertainment sectors.


return to work
Remote Working
Remote Management