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In the third part of our series on flexible teams, we talk to Sally Peacock at learning company Pearson about her surprise that her previously office-based team now prefer a hybrid model.
Over half of Sally Peacock’s team were almost 100% office-based before Covid. Lockdown meant they all had to start working remotely and, although Pearson was geared up to that, with everyone having laptops, and although the team had been trialling some remote working just beforehand, Sally was worried about people finding it difficult to adapt, for instance, not being able to work on two screens.
However, most have been able to keep going throughout the pandemic. “The team has done brilliantly. Their performance has gone up. They have really adapted well,” says Sally, who is Head of Centre Management at global learning company Pearson.
Before Covid three team members were home-based and four work overseas. Sally says that, as everyone is remote now, there is more contact and everyone is on an equal footing. They have improved on their KPIs.
One reason Sally was worried about the move to remote working is that her Centre Management and Approvals teams is fairly young. She thought they might struggle to clear some work space at home and find it challenging not having someone overseeing their work, but that has not been the case. “They got on with it and they don’t want to come back full time now. I really thought they would,” she says.
Sally, who has two grown-up children, says she personally would prefer to work more from home because she has a long commute. However, she was surprised by the results of an internal survey of how employees want to work after Covid. “It was quite a shock that people wanted to work from home. They liked being able to do their work and then finish without having a commute,” she says.
She was also amazed by the increased accessibility to team mates due to homeworking. People respond more quickly, she says, because they are not stuck in meeting rooms all day or travelling to meetings.
There are some people who have missed the office and want to get back, for instance, a colleague with siblings being homeschooled, but for working parents, for instance, Sally recognises that it has been a boon being able to flex work around drop-offs and pick-ups when schools have been open.
Before Covid her team of 21 had flexibility around core hours, but the current set-up is more flexible. “It’s a real culture shift,” says Sally. “Before people in offices might worry if they couldn’t see someone at their desk, but we know now that there are better ways to monitor productivity.”
Her team have weekly check-ins with their line managers and a fortnightly meeting with Sally. Before Covid this was once a month and in the early stages of the pandemic as people settled into the ‘new normal’ it was more frequent. She is aware of the issues around isolation and overwork and reminds people regularly of the need for mindfulness and tells them to let her know if there is anything they need.
Sally reckons her team will adopt a hybrid model after Covid. “I think it will change dramatically. I think there is a need for human contact and that people miss that, those impromptu conversations and the creativity of that. The social aspect of work is important. But people will definitely reduce their time in the office,” says Sally. “It’s a completely different mindset.”
There are other perks of working from home too. Sally says she has noticed a big reduction in sick leave and that she herself has not had her usual round of colds in the last year. “There is not as much stress and sickness,” she says.