Open and close mobile menu


Insights The Future of Work

The speed at which offices closed and people retreated to their homes to work in March 2020 was incredible.

Ever since this fundamental shift of working arrangements and rapid improvement of video conferencing technology, there has been speculation around what the future of work might look like.

Throughout 2020,  it seemed that with every passing week, another large organisation was proclaiming that they will never return to the office, with equal number stating that homeworking was a fad, and we would return to pre covid working as soon as we were able.

Easing of restrictions in some areas and local lockdowns in others saw several stuttered attempts to return to the office throughout 2020, grasped only by the ardent or those whose home working arrangements were intolerable.

The lockdown of early 2021 allowed hibernating office workers to come to terms with their enduring home working routines and forego the lack of in person interaction for more flexibility in their day as we headed into the warmer months.

We will remember July 19th 2021 as the date where restrictions eased and quickly saw pubs, restaurants and other entertainment venues overwhelmed by a shortage of staff and key supplies through a sudden surge in demand. People rushed to holiday booking websites in search of a UK break to make the most of their new freedom – but we didn’t see the same enthusiasm to rush back to our offices.

It is true that many organisations took the opportunity to review their accommodation needs, invariably deciding that less space would be required, just the excuse some needed to not deny someone a desk. Some would have implemented IT systems to allow staff to book places in offices as restrictions prevented full occupancy – but these would now serve as barriers, not enablers to encouraging employees back to the office.

As we near the end of 2021, a huge number of offices are still half empty, most of the time and the concept of office working on a Friday is apparently unthinkable!

The true benefit of office working is the impromptu conversations, bumping into people which you just can’t replicate with scheduled video calls (yes, we tried ‘coffee roulette’ too) but this doesn’t happen if offices are half empty.

Meeting face to face with each other is vital to us as a society, business and as individuals. Offices serve as vital hubs to;

  • Build on our client relationships. Strengthen relationships with clients, listen to their challenges and work with them to develop world class technical solutions.
  • Promote teamwork, creativity and innovation. Hold project and design workshops, bounce ideas off one another and allow good ideas to flourish.
  • Support mentoring, coaching and development.  Accelerate career development, support with training needs, spot and resolve development needs more quickly.
  • Encourage networking. Connect with people you may not otherwise meet remotely. Enjoy spontaneous conversations and gain valuable insights into wellbeing.
  • Socialise, bond and have fun. Celebrate success, maintain social cohesion and build a strong company culture.

We now have a choice – remove all flexibility and mandate an office return, or keep hoping that eventually, employees will see the value of interacting with colleagues in person to overcome the expense of commuting and an earlier alarm call.

Organisations are acutely aware that employees have had time to reflect on priorities and dictating a return to the office could have devastating consequences from a staff retention perspective.

At AtkinsRéalis we are empowering our employees to make the right choice – for their customers, for their teams and for themselves.

We are re-designing our office spaces to match the activities that our employees find most valuable to undertake in shared spaces with collaboration areas. We are also installing state of the art technology to allow us to collaborate with our clients in a different way and showcase our technical expertise.

We are supporting employees with equipment to support homeworking, recognising that this will be a feature for most people as part of an agile working arrangement.

Key findings from a recent employee engagement survey in AtkinsRéalis highlighted a significant increase in the trust that our employees saw from their manager during the pandemic – we want to maintain this.

We are keeping the best elements of homeworking, trusting our employees to make the right decision around the most effective place to carry out their activities, offering a level of flexibility and addressing the issue of work life balance.

At the same time, we retain the benefits of office working with impromptu interactions and collaboration that generates value and creates a sense of belonging which is so difficult to achieve remotely.

The mix of working environments available to our employees and the empowerment to make the right decisions mean that our offices are open, energetic and vibrant environments, used for collaboration and unscheduled interactions – but so too are our client offices and our employees’ homes.

Browse our jobs for more details on a career with AtkinsRéalis .