Rethinking what the office is for

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme’s hybrid working plan begins with a question: what is the office for post-Covid?

fscs company group photo


Hybrid working requires a high trust culture, the right technology, a change to performance management and a mindset shift, according to David Blackburn, award-winning chief people officer at the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

During Covid, FSCS has been evolving its approach and has gone out to employees asking them how they want to work and where and how often they wanted to be in the office when things began to open up. Some people preferred office working and others preferred being remote. From those replies, the organisation developed its 40/40 rule whereby 40% of staff are in the office 40% of the time – that could mean hybrid workers being in two days a week, but it could also mean doing one week in the  office and one not in the office and so forth. The policy was launched in September.

It also embedded greater flexibility in the working day. The organisation asked whether core hours were necessary given how people had been flexing their schedule during the pandemic. It was deemed that people only need a loose framework – the office is open between 7am and 7pm and they can choose their hours within that, meaning they are free to break for the school run in the morning and afternoon, take a siesta, start and finish early and so forth.

Speaking at a recent Flexibility Matters Action Learning Group, Blackburn coined this approach ‘your day your way’ and said the FSCS has been learning since September. It has developed a planning tool so people can see who is in on what day and is trying to flatten the midweek office curve, as people prefer to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. He said the policy is backed up by continuous education, reinforcing the flexible message, and by continual questioning of what the office is for. “If people are just swapping one desk for another, they are doing it wrong,” said Blackburn. He said people come to the office for creativity, collaboration, connectivity and celebration.

Connection includes once a month face to face team meetings and some forms of training, especially behavioural training.

Connection and collaboration

The office layout has been changed to encourage connection and collaboration – room space has been increased, for instance, to embrace hybrid work and equipment – and there is a 200 pound annual equipment allowance which can be used for things like noise-cancelling headphones. The FSCS has installed ceiling cameras so events can be filmed for remote workers.

Blackburn spoke of the need to rethink your diary and turn things on their head so that remote working is for functional meetings and reflection and office time is for collaboration. Whereas in the past working from home was devoted to quiet time, now Blackburn has chunks of his diary blank when he works in the office which enables him to talk to people informally and role model smarter working. “People need to adopt a different mindset and think about what they are doing and where the best place to do that is,” he said.

When it comes to performance management, he states that trust and a loose framework are important rather than a more rigid approach and that managers need to prioritise the people in their teams. He says it is important to set more local quarterly priorities which link to overall yearly strategic goals rather than holding annual reviews. “It’s important to focus on the things that make a difference,” he says.

*FSCS is supporting the first National Older Workers Week which runs from 22nd November and is being led by our sister site Sponsored by QA Ltd, It will include a series of online events for employers and candidates with leading experts and employers. There will be a panel discussion on the results of our survey of older workers’ experience of Covid and their attitudes towards their working lives, a best practice event on everything from eliminating age bias in the recruitment process to returner programmes and lifelong learning, an event for line managers on managing multigenerational teams and a candidate-focused  event sharing older workers’ experiences with expert advice for those who wish to change their careers. Find out more and register for the free events here.

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