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By Sam Hunter

Chief Operating Officer, Homesearch


OTHER FEATURES

Agents – back to the office, please

There’s a lot being said about how the workforce will operate in the post-pandemic world. We’re still largely remote at Homesearch but as we move closer to ‘business as usual’ in a vaccinated world, I find myself very much in the camp of ‘back to the office, please’.

Reading the business press lately, it’s clear that I’m not alone. Some of the loudest voices in the corporate world are rallying to get employees back in offices.

In our industry, agents only left the office for a fraction of the time the rest of the country did. 

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And in our industry, the office is vital.

Here are five reasons why businesses and employees need the office:

Banish bad habits

We’re all guilty of being a little too comfortable when working from home. Even with the best intentions, it’s near impossible to hold ourselves to the same standards and account when working from home as it is in the office.

Avoid burnout

Halfway through 2020, I was talking about “living at work” rather than “working at home”. It’s more than enough to have our work with us 24/7 on our phones, but without the separation of environments the pull of another email, or a 7:30am meeting, is harder to ignore.

Studies have shown we work from the kitchen, from bed, in front of the TV, and even sometimes from the bathroom when working from home. Personal, social and family life all suffer without strict boundaries.

Embed culture

Culture is hugely important. When your teams only know each other in 2D it’s harder to build real trust and relationships. Two things which great businesses are always built on.

Macro-manage

No one likes to be micromanaged but macro-managing is incredibly important to a business. A better word for it might be circumstantial coaching. 

When everyone is working from home, you miss hearing the daily conversations, you miss the chats after a call, pitch or training session and you miss the chance to give immediate, unstructured, feedback or praise. It’s these little things that have a big impact on both morale and bottom line. 

Hire, promote and fire right

It’s the immediacy and intimacy of communication you get in an office that allows leaders to hire, promote and fire right. You can see how people work together when they are actually together. From home, you’re going on gut feel and tracked activity only - and often, sadly neither tell the true story.

In summary

With that all said, the world has changed. So ordering your troops back to the office isn’t how you’ll get the best out of them or the best for the business. 

Learn what your team expects, lead with empathy and confidence.

We conducted a company-wide ‘Return to the Office’ survey earlier in the year and the key learning out of that piece of work was that our people didn’t really want to ‘work from home’, they desperately wanted to work with flexibility. So, we listened. 

I maintain my point that the office is the best place for great work, but to get great work out of your people takes more than just an office. We’ve got to train better, trust more and offer flexibility from the outset. 

Do that and we’re best placed for whatever the future of work looks like.

*Sam Hunter is the Chief Executive Officer of Homesearch

  • Algarve  Investor

    Normally agree with most of what you say, Sam, but have to disagree with you here. Choice is what is needed. Some people work better from home, some people work better in the office, but I think there is plenty of evidence to say people are just as productive working remotely - if not more so - and it's not been to the detriment of the economy or companies that WFH has become more popular.

    Agency is a bit of a different beast to most industries, given it's more customer-facing than most office-based roles, but even then I think choice is crucial.

    No-one should be forced or mandated back to work; flexibility should be encouraged. It's perfectly possible to separate work and life at home with certain boundaries, and the lack of a commute is a dream for many. I think many people would be more exhausted after a day in the office than one spent at home.

    Even if agencies do return full-time, as many already have, surely the old ways of 9-7pm are now antiquated? How much of that time is just totally wasted? It's not like branches are overloaded with people coming in these days.

    Sam Hunter

    100%. The headline might've been a bit baity, but the summary is all about choice and flexibility. Thanks for your thoughts.

     
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    I think (Tuesday Wednesday Thursday ) will start to become the new norm, agree its wrong at the current time to force people back to work BUT I think its getting to the point where we have to start to make the change and get the team in and back to bouncing ideas and problems around as we all did before.

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