Remote working: keeping our employees safe

Michael Curds Chief People Officer
5min read

Right now, every company is tackling how to handle the move to remote working. We made a decision recently to not return to the office until November and wanted to share how and why we got there.

I’m sure many of you have read the headlines about numerous tech firms going fully remote and some UK banks and law firms telling employees that offices will remain closed for at least the remainder of the year.

We are fortunate to have systems and tools that allowed us to transition to remote working without missing a beat, and through this whole period our focus has been and continues to be supporting our employees whilst delivering great work for our clients.

We moved to remote working on March 16, which feels like a lifetime ago and in some respects it was. All of our lives have changed in the period between then and now.

It appears uncertainty will be with us a while longer. While the government continues to slowly relax restrictions and life begins to feel a little more like it used to, we are still far away from what many of us would consider being ‘normal’.

Despite this, it is our responsibility as a leadership team to come up with a plan in order to give our employees direction, guidance and support during this period. While we won’t nail it every time, the decisions we make now and in the future are done with the best of intentions and for the good of our employees and for our company.

The biggest question as we try and adjust to these new ways of working has been: “When are we going to be back in the office?”

We love 11:FS and the work we do but we don’t want anyone to risk their lives for it.

For me this is an easy one to answer, however the reality of that answer might seem a little scary, at first. We won’t be returning until at least November, unless there is a dramatic change in the situation that would allow us to come back safely sooner.

Why? The ONLY thing to consider when making this decision is the safety of our employees, and nothing else.

Imagine a scenario where we open the office. Some of the execs come back…or their manager…or team. Some people might feel compelled to do the same even if they didn't want to.

We will not put our Elevens in that position.

From now until November

November feels like a way off, but the next five months are likely to look considerably different to the past three months. We all hope the infection rate continues to fall and that magical R number stays below 1.

If that’s the case, then the government will continue to relax restrictions and we may even be able to visit pubs and restaurants again in July. Some of us have already started to meet up with friends and family (from a distance of course) and so things are beginning to feel a little more familiar. Or at least, a little less isolated.

Now we know we’re in this for the long haul, our Operations team has been looking into how we can better support employees working remotely. We’re also working on a number of other ways to support our employees in the long term with further announcements planned over the coming weeks.

We have Anisa Aksar, our Senior HR Business Partner and her team collaborating with Benjamin Ensor and the Research team to devise a comprehensive employee survey. This will go some way to helping us gauge how our employees are feeling because the more insight and nuance we get, the more informed the decisions we make can be.

None of us has been in a situation like this, at best it's uncomfortable and frustrating and at worst it can be scary and upsetting

Finally, I want to return to that word ‘uncertainty’.

I think one of the most important things to take from this experience is that uncertainty is going to be with us for a while yet and it’s important that we learn to deal with it.

None of us has been in a situation like this, at best it's uncomfortable and frustrating and at worst it can be scary and upsetting. Many routines we have adopted over the years have been pulled from beneath us and we’re having to adapt on the fly to a new reality.

What has been impressive is how our Elevens have stayed focussed on delivering great work for our clients all over the globe. For example, delivering exceptional remote design sprints, and supporting our clients through that entire process, getting them comfortable with the digital tools to deliver outstanding outcomes in even the most trying circumstances.

While some people deal with this uncertainty better than others, we all struggle at times. It’s important to recognise this and not be fearful of it, this is the world we live in and we all need to find ways to cope.

That is why we need to be as transparent with our employees as possible. Only by having open and honest communication will we create an environment of trust and one where our Elevens feel supported and heard during this difficult time.

Expect more of this soon as we continue to evolve our working practices as a fully remote organisation for months to come.