(3 mins read)

The pandemic disrupted our ways of working and recently, with increasing amount of vaccination doses delivered and removal of restrictions, many people anticipated that we would go ‘back to normal’ soon. Based on recent experience, it does not look so easy or promising.

Recently, the City of London-based branch of UBS, a Swiss bank, wanted to promote office working within their team using a soft approach. They did not want to push or implement any specific forced policies. The management decided to organise a morning meeting with a free breakfast. But in the morning they experienced an unexpected situation, as the majority of the team members decided to stay at home and dial into the meeting. Is this a unique situation for UBS? Not really. Based on research conducted at the end of October, only 22% of people are physically at the office. Saving on commute time and/or better work-life balance are much stronger drivers for employees than a free breakfast.

It is obvious that we’ve experienced less and less collaboration during the pandemic. People focus on executing their task lists; they manage mailboxes and prefer working independently when they want and where they want. When you work individually, it’s easier to focus on your own desk and individual priorities. Job done!

Leaders and HRs of organisations need to discuss and implement new ways of working as soon as possible. It is obvious that moving back to working in an office is absolutely impossible. Below there are the most feasible options for consideration:

  • Hybrid model (e.g. 50:50) – 50% of time in the office and 50% outside
  • Working 100% from anywhere – no need to be in the office at all
  • Working 4 days a week (compressed working time) – its already happening, the UAE just extended weekend from Friday mid-day to Sunday
  • Working 7 days a week (based on tasks and outcomes)
  • Trust-based working model (combination of above elements based on employees feedback)

Based on some research, it is proven that there are some responsibilities or tasks wherein physical location is not a limiting factor. These are routine tasks, executed by individual contributors not requiring team work or collaboration: accounting, data entry, back-office activities, compliance or quality checks. Actually there are many examples like the aforementioned.

Collaboration technology supports remote working, however it is more like a project management, task execution. When you work virtually there is no space for a coffee chat, corridor talk and other informal situation which are so important when people work together.


Nowadays, people are looking for flexibility. It is less about money, career, pension or stability of employment and it is more about individuals deciding how, where and when to work. If the gap between what employees want and what employers  are providing is too big, then people resign or they join another company which provides the flexibility workers seek.

Below there are attributes of the flexible model which are critical for talent acquisition and retention:

  • Employee-centric
  • Trust-based
  • Work-life balance
  • Focus on value added
  • Work anywhere
  • Work anytime
  • Collaboration technologies
  • Mental health and wellbeing

Companies which understand this and adjust first will be the ones best able to retain or attract talent in the post-pandemic reality. As you may see, talent has begun to care relatively less about compensation and benefits; and more about intangible elements like trust, work-life balance, mental health, etc..

There is only one BUT!

If we focus too much on individuals and remote working we will negatively impact collaboration and gains from agglomeration. Cognitive repetitive, routine tasks will be done, however creative and innovative work will suffer due to lack of human interactions and having a brainstorm in a physical room.

We will be having more FLEXIBILITY and less COLLABORATION.

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