How the UK’s best workplaces have adapted to change
How have the UK’s best places to work adapted to changes in the way we work?
To help business leaders navigate the new ways of working brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, we asked three leaders of award-winning SMEs how they adapted as offices first went remote, how their plans changed, and where they think the business will go next.
Headed by Kate McCarthy-Booth, McCarthy Recruitment is a staffing consultancy with offices across England. It has twice been ranked as the UK’s best small workplace.
The company had always operated with some level of home-working, but the lockdown brought about a fully remote workforce for the first time. Kate focused first on providing connectivity and office resources to all employees, allowing them to work and communicate effectively.
The other key part of her approach was understanding and addressing the mental-health challenges that came with home working, taking an individualised approach to address the different needs of each employee.
“Any solution needs to be fluid and work for everybody,” says Kate. “Everyone’s individual. You have to go back to that every now and then to say ‘Is it working?’. Coming back to the office was an important step in re-evaluating if we were getting things right.”
Kate says, “For me we’ve created a hybrid model that works for both the individual and the business culture. We’ve done this by recognising the needs of each employee but also acknowledging that, for most of us, we feel at our most creative and engaged around other people.
“Coming out of this, I hope people will be more comfortable about saying what they need. I don’t like saying that, I’d like to think it was perfect, but this enforced new way of working has opened people’s eyes to things they didn’t know that they needed before.”
BigChange provides a range of mobile-workforce management technologies for mobile workers and back-office personnel. Employing 170 people, BigChange won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2020, and its workplace was recognised by Best Companies with a two-star rating.
As part of its ISO certification, guaranteeing consistent services, BigChange has experience operating the entire office virtually – including a drill just a week prior to lockdown. This meant the business was in a great position to retain productivity and customer relationships once lockdown hit.
BigChange has virtualised its workforce, with all 167 employees now able to work remotely. All processes are web-based, including a phone system that allows employees to stay contactable as if they were in the office.
To help with employee engagement, existing motivational speaker events were moved online – which had the added benefit of broadening the audience to BigChange’s customers, not just its employees. The business has also made an individualised effort for the mental wellbeing of its employees. It has started a daily catch-up call for each department, checking in with every team member each day to understand their needs.
BigChange has taken lockdown as an opportunity to establish remote working for the long term. Its founder and chief executive, Martin Port says: “We won’t go back to face-to-face sales or onboarding. Cutting out travel lets us operate in a greener, safer way. It also means we can give a better service to our customers by being more readily available, as well as having the ability to record, analyse and refine our techniques.”
Founded by James Endersby, Opinium is an insight agency, helping organisations in the UK and US understand their audiences. It has twice placed highly in the list of the UK’s best small workplaces.
As a small business in a creative industry, Opinium knew it worked best as a team. With that in mind, lockdown meant quickly mobilising to “recreate our creative magic online”. Thanks to prior investment in Microsoft Teams, Virtual Private Network technology and a secure cloud environment – as well as a strong workplace culture of keeping employees engaged – Opinium did just that.
“We were trying to recreate those existing connections online, adapting initiatives we already had in place at the office,” says Endersby. “Although the world we’re operating in now is very different, we didn’t commit to old ideas that didn’t work and instead looked to create new ones that did.”
Being a research agency, Opinium took the same approach to running the business remotely as it does in all aspects of work – tracking and monitoring views, and adapting. The company took the break between restrictions to re-open the office for employees who didn’t feel they could work from home.
The Changing Workplace Report
This report includes more detail on how the leaders of Opinium, McCarthy Recruitment and Big Change are navigating the new ways of working, and practical guidance from a sociologist and remote working expert to help keep employees happy and healthy. You’ll also find tips on using tech to boost home working productivity and thoughts on how businesses can bounce back better.
Enter your email address below to download the Changing Workplace