ONE year on from lockdown last March and companies across Bradford have adapted to working from home, but will quiet office blocks see their employees return and bring much-needed footfall to the city centre?
One Yorkshire business, Yorkshire Water, which has an office building on Halifax Road in Bradford and a customer call centre in Thornbury, implemented changes to accommodate people working from home.
Gillian Mason, head of organisational development at Yorkshire Water, said: “We had to consider the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues. We have 4,600 people across Yorkshire and 40 per cent of them are in the office.”
She said they kept services running by procuring laptops for employees working for home.
“We set up communication channels and also gave tips on how to look after children and still work and also how to look after yourself.
“We stopped using the word ‘back’’. We need to look forward and we’ve realised we can work remotely. We’ve taken a survey and 90 per cent of our employees don’t want to work full-time in the office. It’s been incredibly challenging, but we’ve established some great working practices and flexible working times.
“We’ve also supported our call centre colleagues and are proud of our operational colleagues who have been out making sure the water is flowing.”
A spokesperson for another Bradford business, Yorkshire Building Society, whose headquarters is on Rooley Lane, said: “When the UK locked down last March, we worked quickly to bring in changes to enable the colleagues in our business who can work from home to do so.
“Throughout the crisis, many of our key workers have continued to work in our branches and contact centres, including at Yorkshire Drive, to provide our customers with essential financial services.
“We have 1,400 colleagues across the business who have been working safely and productively from home, and we’re not in a rush to bring them back to our office sites.
“We will work with colleagues throughout 2021 as the restrictions ease and change to ensure a safe transition back into the office – recognising that many colleagues are keen to be back working with their teams.
“Whilst we have no plans to get rid of any of our office sites, like many organisations, we will be looking at what we can learn from 2020 in terms of how we work and the flexibility that we can offer.”
And despite the fact that office blocks have been quiet and footfall to city centre has been down, there is reason for optimism.
Catherine Riley, centre manager at Kirkgate Shopping Centre. said: “When the shops are due to re-open on April 12, we expect people to come out in force.
“Working from home has worn thin because people miss interaction and feeding off others. We’re social animals. It’s not good for us to sit at home.
“I think things will progress very quickly to becoming more normal.
“People want to be with people. They want out of their houses and they want to shop.”