CEO Update: Managing a return to the workplace

At Bartier Perry we’re not seeing a return to the workplace as a return to normal.

COVID-19 has delivered a fundamental shift in our workplaces and wider society. It has challenged us on so many levels, but it has also provided the rare opportunity to accelerate our thinking on the world of work, the use of technology and the critical importance of human interaction.

How all of this exactly plays out and how long lasting those changes will be is unknown.

But in working with our people and our clients in the weeks and months ahead we’re being guided by three principles.

Be safe:

We’re aligning our workplace to the practical and well thought out Safe Work Australia guidelines. These cover everything from building access to sanitisers to social distancing. Being safe though is more than that. It’s recognising different people will have differing levels of anxiety as business reopens. That means our clients and employees should feel welcome to express personal concerns or raise issues or ideas that could make them feel more comfortable in their daily interactions with the firm. For clients this covers whether you are coming to our office or we are visiting you. Consultation and understanding will be just as important, if not more so, than posters and guidelines as people return to traditional office spaces.

Be flexible:

For many years the talk has been about flexibility in the workplace. In recent weeks we’ve learnt flexibility really begins at home. We’ve all seen another side where formality and structures have been replaced by a willingness to adapt and understand. It has been gratifying to see that in the response of the Bartier Perry team. They have taken on board so much change in such short time with grace, goodwill and understanding - including when an uninvited 11-year old wanders into a live video team Town Hall.

There will be a natural return to a degree of formality be it in dress code or otherwise in the workplace. Yet in working with our clients we are happy and encourage them to engage with us in their preferred way of working. This may be face to face, video conferencing or via other collaboration platforms. More than ever as we face huge economic challenges, people with a range of views need a seat at the table. Not everyone has to be in the same room.

Be in it for the long term:

Our doors have been open for 77 years. And as a firm that was founded in the middle of a world war our culture has from day one been about taking a longer term view. We certainly don’t underestimate the challenges our country, the economy, our clients and the firm will face in the coming months. Neither do we despair. At Bartier Perry, we will not let this crisis go to waste, rather we will learn from it, and we will continue to do better. We also know that there’s a way through it, there always is and we’re determined to walk through that door with our clients.

These three principles are the framework on which we will build our approach to looking after our clients and people. We know we’ll need to be flexible in our thinking, open to other approaches and patient in the face of a virus that for now has thankfully diminished but in no way disappeared from all our lives.

Author: Riana Steyn