Anchor days and the watercooler conundrum

‘War of the Worlds’ webinar hosted by law firm CMS tackles the next normal including new terms like ‘anchor days’.

Two men meeting in and office space


The War of the Worlds was the topic for a CMS seminar on working from home this week. The worlds in question being those of work and home.

An expert panel including Kenny Stewart of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Anna Koch of the CBI and editor James Millar considered the implications of this year’s homeworking revolution.

They discussed a range of novel terms including ‘the watercooler conundrum’ and the advent of ‘anchor days’

The event was organised and chaired by global law firm CMS.

Anchor days

Kenny Stewart, head of policy at the EHRC talked about the changes to working patterns. He stressed that while the ‘where’ of flexible working is important, questions about when employees work and how long are also part of the conversation. As the pandemic goes on he spoke of ‘the next normal’ when it comes to workplace practices.

Anna Koch, senior policy advisor at business group the CBI, suggested many of her members are looking at a two/three model. That means employees will spend two days in the office and three days working from home. Occasional ‘anchor days’ when everyone is in the office could become the norm. These would allow team members to meet up, share creative thoughts and also help with onboarding new employees.

With so many meetings taking place remotely and likely to do so for the foreseeable future Anna also addressed the problems with structuring those get togethers. She suggested that one solution going forward will be to have more structured conversations. Instead of opening the floor a facilitator will turn to specific attendees for input.

The watercooler conundrum

Partner and chair of the Women’s Network at CMS, Catherine Taylor wondered how creative sparks can be fostered when people are not meeting up. She dubbed this the watercooler conundrum.

Ashley Topping, head of employee relations at energy firm SSE said the challenge now is to consider how we work. Where and when we work are part of that bigger question. She also said companies like SSE who were already adopting flexible working before the pandemic hit had been best placed to cope with the upheaval. She said the lockdown had acted like a nationwide pilot for working from home.

Internal polling at SSE had turned up intriguing findings. Just 38% of female employees were content to return to the workplace with appropriate social distancing. 49% of men were content to go back to work. Ashley suggested there could be a range of reasons for that gap.

Seize the moment

Editor of James Millar pointed to our survey findings as evidence that working dads want to work from home going forward. However he said that if actions are to match words and survey findings employers and individuals must seize the moment. Working dads intends to be at the forefront of driving that change. He was asked to name a few actions employers could take to encourage new ways of working. He said they should grant more paternity leave, promote role models and exercise more empathy. and our sister sites and are holding two workshops this month on introducing more empathy to your business. You can sign up here

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