Well, it’s been almost two months since most of us have been working in some form of remote manner, with Australia and New Zealand embracing the social distancing concept very well, thus resulting in a flattening of our respective curves. While this ‘working from home’ period has worked reasonably well for most, the longer it has gone on, the more people are starting to want to get back to the office. Why? We are, for the most part, social creatures. Most of us miss that interaction with colleagues and clients. That’s excellent, and the time is getting closer for us to start heading back into the office. Some will want to continue work from home at different times. That may well be okay too (depending on the arrangements you can make with your manager). For those of us who will be heading back into the office, which is the greater majority of us, we need to be aware of what returning to work may look like.

Returning to work on the first day will probably not resemble going into the office pre COVID-19. Firstly, your office is unlikely to be as full as usual with most offices likely to commence with a staged return to the office, with teams operating Team A/Team B structures. Importantly, this allows us to continue to maintain a level of social distancing in the office so that we can avoid any reemergence of COVID-19. It is therefore also extremely important that we maintain social distancing in shared spaces, such as break-out rooms and meeting rooms. The respective people and governments of Australia and New Zealand have spent a lot of resources on the curve being flattened and it is important that we do not over correct too quickly and risk the virus returning with vengeance. The best way we can ensure it doesn’t return in any significant scale is to remain vigilant on social distancing, maintain good hygiene practices, and listen to government advice. This includes, in Australia at least, downloading the government CovidSafe app.

Working from home has probably allowed some of us a little more time in the mornings to get ready for work and has perhaps allowed some of us some more time to exercise. Both are excellent things to have done and I hope the less travel time and enhanced fitness regime has been positive for people’s mental health as we all have confronted various forms of isolation. I’d encourage everyone to maintain, where possible, their enhanced exercise workload, notwithstanding their routine will change. I’ve always believed that the fitter you are the more resilient you are to colds and flu (and perhaps other viruses) and this fitness creates a more positive mindset (which will enhance your emotional wellbeing too). Getting back into the rhythm of the working week may take a few days to get used to. That’s okay. You’re all adults but do take the time to think about the work week ahead and how you plan to tackle it. It’s been a while since a lot of us have really had to think too much about traffic and train/bus timetables. If you are worried about the return to work, please be sure to talk to your manager and/or your dedicated HR teams. We at Bentleys want to be sure all our people are mentally ready to return to work, as this lock down will have been challenging for many with a multitude of stresses having to be confronted by a significant percentage of the community. It’s important to talk to people if you have any concerns.

The physical return to the office will occur at different times for our various offices and our clients. Some clients will be capable of seeing us immediately, whereas some firms may have different physical contact arrangements in place than we do. Be sure to understand what these are, as I’m sure there will be a natural rush to see as many clients as possible. Indeed, many firms and individuals may have suffered more than others during this difficult time. It’s important to approach the return to work and client facing activity in a measured way. Again, we want to avoid a recurrence of this virus and its damaging impact as much as we can.

The Boards of Bentleys Australia and New Zealand continue to meet on a weekly basis to discuss how our people, our businesses and our clients are progressing in each of our locations. The offer of feedback and support in these meetings has been excellent and is a clear sign of enterprise leadership and collaboration working. Rest assured the Board and our HR working group are focused on the safety and wellbeing of our people and this is a regular topic at Board level. I greatly value the work of our HR working group and their understanding of the various challenges of returning to work after such a significant period of isolation. We all want to make sure we do what is right for our people, our business, our clients and our broader community.

The next month will continue to offer various challenges, but also new opportunities. We may experience some minor setbacks as we return to life as we knew it and, in some instances, it may take a little longer than we hope for. Rest assured that if we continue to work together as a society and as a Network, we can overcome any short-term setbacks.

To those in our community who have experienced loss in any way, I offer my condolences on behalf of the Bentleys Board and our broader Bentleys family. To those experiencing financial and/or emotion stress, I encourage you to seek support. To our clients, I know your Bentleys team will have been in contact with you already and are looking to work with you through this phase and into the future. Hopefully we can assist you with your requirements, whatever they may be. To our wonderful staff, thank you for staying strong during this challenging period. I know some have found it tougher going than others, and some may find returning to work tougher than others. Be sure you are talking to friends, family, managers and your HR team to ensure you are best prepared for the upcoming changes to our work environments.

And finally, to all our frontline healthcare workers, medical practitioners, cleaners, hospitality workers who continue to serve, thank you for your efforts during this time. You are truly the unsung heroes of our communities. Australia and New Zealand have been lucky, but we’ve brought our own luck by managing the lockdown well. As this lockdown draws to a conclusion over the coming weeks and months, I wish you all well on your return to work and I look forward to seeing all the Bentleys staff across Australia and New Zealand over the coming months as we slowly return to business as usual.

We, at Bentleys, are doing everything we can to help businesses come out of this challenging time in good shape.
We will continue to update our COVID-19 resource hub with important developments, so please return soon.

Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.

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