The Covid-19 lockdown period has brought about much discussion about the future of the conventional office space. With many UK employees having spent months working remotely, there is the possibility of firms jettisoning the costs of office spaces and deploying their workforce to carry out tasks from home in the longer term. However, Roy Dykes, owner of London-based high pressure water jetting equipment and training courses specialist firm, Jetmasters, argues that there should always be a place for the office in the workplace of the future.
Discussing his firm’s experience of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Leaders Council podcast, Dykes said: “We began by having to furlough one or two members of staff, and they accepted that decision because otherwise we would have had to lose them and I will need all of my employees when we do eventually return to normal. Our traditional market completely dried up, so we had to reinvent ourselves and do other things loosely related to our core work as well as re-routing to make PPE, so adaptability was vital for us.
“We also emphasised looking after the mental health of our staff, and so we contacted those furloughed at least once a week to make sure they were in the right head-space. I do consider myself lucky to have a good workforce. They are dedicated and not in it for themselves and they understand the situation regarding company and country and recognise sacrifices must be made. For those sacrifices, there will be something to come back to when we do go back to normal.”
When asked by Leaders Council interviewer, Scott Challinor, about his views on a potential future shift toward home-working, Dykes stressed that while there were advantages to working from home, particularly in the Greater London region, the office will still have a role to play in the work environment.
Dykes explained: “We have weighed up this issue ourselves. We haven’t been in our office for over 12 weeks other than checking the post and our landlord is being hard-line with the situation. We are paying full rent and working from home and I can see why some businesses may see an opportunity to work from home permanently and offload heavy costs.
“However, at Jetmasters we are all of the opinion, both employees and management, that it is good to work at home short-term, but after a while it becomes a problem because you can become somewhat stir crazy. We crave social interaction as humans and, while there is a place for home working, there is one for the office environment too, where one can mix and interact.
“The positive in London is working from home does reduce pollution levels and the strain on the transport system, but I think, considering people's mental health in particular, it would be better to have a hybrid system of maybe working from home one or two days and the remainder in the office, rather than every day in the week.
“A conference call meeting is very different to meeting in person, and likewise when one has to commute into work, we see people getting dressed and mentally preparing themselves for work rather than rolling out of bed, being at their desks and working in pyjamas throughout the day. Given the pros, I envision, therefore, that the office will be there for some time yet.”
Offering his thoughts on how the pandemic is likely to affect the future of the Jetmasters business, Dykes believes that the outlook is positive.
“I think the medium to long-term for us is quite rosy. We have survived lockdown, taken advantage of the furlough scheme, not needed to take out any loans, and we have a bit of money in the bank and are paying staff and suppliers.
“In June, we saw a return to our core business and as we are looking to return to more normal working practices, we are looking to bring more staff on board and expand more into our market in the Middle East as well as opening a branch in India. Overall, the future for Jetmasters is looking good.”