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Presenteeism vs Productivity: embracing agile working practices post-lockdown


In a series of blogs Colliers UK HR Director Lydia Ings explains how the working life of our experts is changing as we take our initial steps back to the office. Here she examines office presenteeism and work productivity and our evolving agile working practices.

We won’t know the lasting impact of the pandemic on how and where we work until the restrictions have been fully lifted, the vaccine rollout is complete and people have settled into a regular routine once again. It will only be when we find our new balance that we will get a real sense of which positives of lockdown working will remain and which were more of a temporary fix. One thing we can be sure of is that communication and agility will be vital as we transition back to the office. Together we must all make an effort to notice and embrace the things we have missed, while recognising what now feels more clunky, so we don’t slip back into old, unhelpful habits. 

Like many in the industry and beyond, we are moving away from a culture of ‘presenteeism’ and towards one of working in an agile way which best fits the need on any given day. Don’t get me wrong, I really value presenteeism at the right time – it brings lots of positives, giving people structure and purpose, which is particularly valuable from a wellbeing perspective when supporting staff returning to work following a period of leave. However, core to our vision as we emerge from the pandemic is a culture and working environment which fosters a healthy work-life balance alongside healthy productivity. So we will be inviting our staff to work in a way that is driven by the person’s role, and where they need to be to perform that function. By thinking about the position rather than the individual, we focus on client service delivery, whilst balancing the wellbeing of our employees. 

The past year has opened everyone’s eyes to different ways of working and in many ways has fostered a more responsive, personal, and efficient delivery of our clients – we know this because they have told us so and naturally we are keen to retain this as we return to the office. We must be careful though, the 24/7 nature of homeworking has all but lost any delineation between work and home – looking up and seeing it has gone dark outside while we are still sat at our kitchen table, sofa or, if lucky, in our study has meant the two have merged seamlessly. It has arguably raised expectations of always being available, but perhaps more worrying is the personal pressure we put on ourselves to perform constantly. We all have a responsibility to be mindful of our team’s and colleagues’ wellbeing and the pressure that some might feel as we seek to maintain this high level of service delivery, whilst returning to the commute and all the other pressures that are starting to come back to our busy lives – balance is going to be key.

Shift in mindset
With this in mind, our agile working framework enables our people to adapt their working styles to be their most productive and to deliver the best and most efficient service to our customers. If their role requires them to be in the office for face-to-face meetings, collaboration with colleagues, and to provide the most efficient service delivery, then that is what will happen. Although they will also have the flexibility to work from home when completing tasks that are more administrative or require focus. Ultimately, it’s about a shift in mindset where our people are judged on outputs and results, rather than how often they are physically in the office.  

Through these changes, I am optimistic that we can retain the positive working practices from lockdown and finally say goodbye to some of the more negative and unhelpful perceptions around people’s ability to deliver exceptional results whilst working on an agile basis. This can only be a positive for gender parity in the workplace, as men and women are supported in retaining and maintaining a more balanced share of work/home responsibilities that may have initially come about from lockdown necessity. 

As with everything, there is a balance to be found, and to be successful there needs to be a willingness to adapt from all stakeholders. We will be observing and listening closely to our people, and our clients, as we return to the office. By keeping the lines of communication open, we will foster an environment where the good things from working at home can be retained, in a sustainable and productive way. While in the process ensure that the lasting legacy of the pandemic on work-life balance and gender equality is a positive one.

Read Lydia's blog on leading an agile workforce

Read Lydia's blog on 10 tips for hosting successful hybrid meetings

About the Author

Lydia Ings has more than 25 years of experience in Human Resources and an extensive knowledge of the real estate market. She has worked across the full spectrum of HR; including talent acquisition, graduate development, training & career development, operations, and business partnering.

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Lydia Ings

HR Director

Human Resources

London - West End

I join Colliers with over 18 years experience in Human Resources, most recently holding the senior position of Head of Talent Acquisition and Development.

As a highly respected HR professional with extensive knowledge of the real estate market, I have worked across the full spectrum of HR; including talent acquisition, graduate development, training & career development, operations, and business partnering.

I lead Colliers’ UK HR team, using extensive experience in real estate to understand the challenges we face across all business lines, adding real value to the UK business.


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