My Column

OFFICIALLY Its a new way of working

  • Date: Tuesday 9th March 2021
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With the vaccination rollout picking up pace and a roadmap out of lockdown unveiled, many traditionally office based businesses will be questioning the return to physical premises after a year of working from home.

For most businesses remote working was forced upon them, however it has resulted in a variety of cost saving benefits including downsizing premises and minimal employee expenses – so why would they want to return to the old accepted norm?

Home working has remained in place for much longer than anyone initially anticipated, with mixed outcomes. For some individuals it has provided more flexibility and work life balance whilst businesses have cut down on their overheads, but this isn’t the case for everyone.

Employees who miss the social interaction of an office environment or simply don’t have a suitable remote working space, with blurred lines between work and home life, will have an appetite to return to the office.

We should also consider that these busy city centre high-rise office blocks provided a massive revenue stream for other business including transport, retail and hospitality. Where will these companies plug the revenue gaps if city offices remain empty or are sold?

The phrase ‘hybrid working’ – a model which allows some employees to work remotely while others work on-premises – has been circulating for months now and it’s clear to see why. Lots are in favour of a more modern and blended approach as it suits their lifestyle and business objectives. There’s also an argument that it enables an employer greater access to a broader and more diverse workforce.

KPMG and NatWest are among those announcing future plans for hybrid working, but naturally it won’t suit everyone.

Some businesses were already ahead of the curve with hybrid work models and blended schedules, but you could say that for others, they simply reacted to the situation of home working rather than implementing a strategic plan for the scenario.

Therefore I’d urge employers to ensure their intention to remain at home or return to the office is implemented and communicated strategically to their staff.

The rise in popularity of this hybrid model is also working in favour of companies like Glasgow based Mediascape. Their audio-visual installations are helping workplaces become more appropriately equipped to support a long term hybrid model. Some popular solutions include sensor-driven systems that can work hands-free, as well as 'bring your own meeting' systems that allow users to drive meetings from their own device, while using all of the hardware within the room.

Seamless integration of blended working sounds great in theory, but how does this work in practice and are businesses considering employee wellbeing and appetite to return to the office or are they simply looking at their bottom-line and making a decision for future working practices based on cost alone?  

Initially the structure of the working day was expected to continue at home as it would in the office, similarly in workforce output expectations – but is this appropriate? Surely it’s much more successful to be more open minded and focus on overall outcomes, rather than to the detriment of employee mental health. With the home school juggle or shared technical equipment at home, working condensed hours might be preferable and some businesses have been encouraged this.

There’s been lots of talk lately about a condensed working week and implementing a flexible work policy as it allows employees to work full-time hours over fewer days – most commonly by condensing work into a four day week.

Several trade unions have lent their support to Scotland moving to a four-day working week in response to the pandemic. The Scottish Trades Union Congress are just one of many calling on the Scottish government to introduce a national subsidy for companies that switch to a 32-hour working week with no loss of pay.

It is believed that shorter working hours are the best way to share work more equally across the economy during a recession. Other benefits to condensed working include improved mental health, a better work-life balance and a boost in productivity.

Ultimately I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach for business, there never has been, but throughout this past year employers and employees alike have challenged the norm, so it looks likely more hybrid working could be on the agenda in our future.

Side – 


The news that the current restrictions are set to slowly unravel as we leap into spring has to be a breath of fresh air for hospitality, retail and entertainment businesses across Scotland.


However, one sector within the entertainment industry has continued to plead for urgent government guidance and support. Is March the month where we shine a light on the struggling nightclub industry or is the government calling last orders for the Scottish night out?


While English clubs have circled June 21st in their calendars to re-open the doors and fire up the smoke machines, Scottish club owners are very much still in the dark, with guidance hinting that they’ll probably be last on the list for the easing of restrictions. 


With calls for clarity needed, this is no longer a case of people just needing a good ol’ fashioned night out, it’s a case of survival for a number of Scotland’s largest names in hospitality. In Glasgow alone, the night-time economy supports over 16,000 full-time jobs and contributes an incredible £2.16 billion annual income towards the city’s economy.


A recent survey by Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) found out that over 40 per cent of nightclubs haven’t seen any grant support from the government and if this continues, it’s going to silence the scene permanently.


Even once the mystery surrounding the ‘when’ is unveiled, nightclub industry leaders are still awaiting guidance on the ‘how’. With speculation on immunity passports being thrown into the mix, bouncers may be looking for more forms of ID than usual and I dread to think how social distancing can even be a thing on the dancefloor.


Here’s hoping that once normality resumes around the country, our nightclub businesses are back open for the big night out that both people and the economy desperately needs.


Laugh – 

I have always had a passion for championing business opportunities that pop up in all their weird and wonderful forms, so it’s great to see a Greenock-based firm has trekked its way to success through their alpaca walking business.


West Coast Alpacas, launched at the tail end of 2020, has already proven hugely popular with families looking for a local trip post-lockdown.


They’ve also had a flock of support thanks to a grant from Business Gateway, and the company hopes to increase their digital capabilities and further expand the tours business.


There seems to be a number of Alpaca-centric tourist businesses popping up around Scotland and what better way to explore the stunning countryside.


Once everything is back open, I may have to see what the ‘fuzz’ is about.

Weep – 


Wildlife and tourism go hand in hand, but I’ve got some bad news for anyone looking to enjoy a wonderful Scottish staycation later this year. 


According to experts, everyone’s favourite winged critter, the pesky Scottish midge has seen numbers boom due to the lower levels of pollution recorded during lockdown.


The Scottish Midge Forecast revealed that 2021 could see a ‘summer of midge hell for people’, after their team calculated a population of around 139 billion of the beasties in the Highlands and Islands alone.


Here’s hoping that Scotland’s least favourite wildlife doesn’t cause too much of an impact on tourism and hospitality businesses that need that staycation support once the lockdown is eased and people begin to travel to the more remote parts of the country for a getaway. 


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