Many businesses across the U.K. have adopted a working-from-home model since lockdown began in March, but with social distancing and other safety measures still in place, questions have been raised about whether it could become the new normal.

YMCA Lincolnshire’s chief executive, Caroline Killeavy, said “flexibility and working from home are here to stay”. Photo: Anna Shvets via Pexels.com

Making use of online video-calling platforms such as Zoom and Skype, companies have been able to stay in touch with employees and host meetings.

According to a report from the Office for National Statistics, “45% of adults in employment said they had worked from home at some point in the last week”, from 9 April to 20 April.

The Linc spoke to several people responsible for businesses.

Kelly Hunstone is the chief executive of Social Change UK, a company that carries out social research and campaigns, and has offices in London and Lincoln.

She said: “We were one of the first to move to home-working in early March, ahead of the lockdown, and it was relatively easy for us to set up from our homes, and we have worked productively from home ever since.”

Charlotte Goy, chief executive of Visit Lincoln, a tourism company based in Lincoln, said her team “worked in the office right up to lockdown being announced”, but smoothly transitioned due to previous investments in cloud-based computing.

YMCA Lincolnshire’s chief executive, Caroline Killeavy, said “flexibility and working from home are here to stay”, as her team have made fundamental changes to the way the charity operates.

However, as COVID-19 restrictions continue to be eased and more people return to work, how offices may adapt remains a mystery, and one that could have a broader impact on the city of Lincoln.

The government has issued official guidance for going to work, as well as steps for safety in the workplace, which includes advice for offices and contact centres. 

Following the guidelines, several organisations are beginning to plan their route for the future.

Ms Hunstone from Social Change UK explained their method of returning to the office: ”We are planning to go back to the office in September but we are looking to implement a ‘blended’ way of working between home and office in the future,” she said.

While flexible, at-home working models benefit some businesses, for Visit Lincoln, Ms Goy said that retaining a traditional brick-and-mortar spot was crucial.

The face of business in the city could change dramatically in the years to come, as companies make difficult decisions about how – and where – to operate. Photo: Edward Jenner by Pexels.com

“We approached returning to the office in a phased way and, because our offices are small, it is unlikely we will have more than two members at one time,” she said, “But it is essential that we still have a presence in the city.”

Other organisations, such as YMCA Lincolnshire, are struggling more, as the pandemic and lockdown take a heavy toll on business.

Ms Killeavy said: “Charities like ours often run side businesses and simply the business is not going to come back anytime soon, so we are going to have to adapt to that space.

“The teams are going to have to be more flexible in what they do and not expect things to be the same as they were, not anticipating huge conferences as before.

“What we need to do now is to have a phased plan to bring income-generating business back.”

The face of business in the city could change dramatically in the years to come, as companies make difficult decisions about how – and where – to operate.

If there is a silver lining, Ms Goy says it’s a valuable reminder not to take things for granted.

“Being forced out of the city makes you appreciate how fabulous Lincoln is as a place to work.”

By Abbey Warne

News Editor at The Linc.