According to a survey by Office Space in Town (OSiT), a successful Covid vaccine would encourage 95% of employees to pick working in an office over remote work. But the majority would also like to see more flexible working conditions than before lockdown. The survey showed that only 5% of employees were keen on a permanent shift to full-time home working.
The benefits of working from home, such as the lack of commute and more time available to spend with family, sit alongside all sorts of negative repercussions. These include back and neck pain caused by unsuitable home working spaces, feelings of isolation, and difficulties separating work and home life. Some employees have even felt pressure to work much longer and harder at home to show productivity from outside the ‘visibility’ of the office space.
In the light of these drawbacks, it seems that permanent home working isn’t sustainable for most people.
On site or off site?
We asked four full-time employees about their home working experiences and how they feel about returning to working in an office.
Charity worker Mel says “Working from home has been great in terms of the flexibility and the time saved on commuting, but for me it’s gone on too long and I would love to go back to the office. The social interaction, as well as the info you pick up just by being in the same room as your colleagues, can really add to how well you work.”
Fliss, a PR professional, says “I do miss the social aspects of the office, but I’ve gained control over my time. At home I’ve developed a much more efficient work schedule that makes me feel more energised than I did when I had a long commute and a rather inefficient work day.”
Dan, who works in financial services, has found the lack of distinction between home and work life stressful to manage. “Home feels like a safe workplace for me in the current environment. I get to spend more time with my kids, but I do find it difficult to manage work and home life in the same space. A vaccine would encourage me to return to the office, but my preference would be two days in and three at home.”
Designer Chris says “I really miss the social contact with other people in the office. I also sometimes find it hard to motivate myself at home if I’m working on an especially lengthy or boring task. In the office I generally find it easier to get my head down and get stuck into the job.”
What’s the future of office life?
As Deloitte reported back in May, “Organizations face a choice between returning to a post-COVID world that is simply an enhanced version of yesterday or building one that is a sustainable version of tomorrow”. With future case spikes and lockdowns still possible, it’s clear that employers need to continue to flex and adapt, rather than rush to enforce their more rigid pre-Covid working conditions.
So, what could going back to the office look like?
A mix of remote and onsite work
With social distancing considerations now a key factor in creating a safe workplace, it’s doubtful that office spaces will be welcoming back entire workforces on a full-time basis. Therefore, a working week split across remote and office work is likely to be a reality for many workers.
Many crowded workplaces are used to functioning on a hot-desking basis, so time-sharing office space in ‘bubbles’ of employees (with thorough cleaning between use) could be a natural next step for minimising the risk of contamination.
On top of deep cleaning, expect extra hygiene measures, such as dividing screens, provision of masks and gloves, and hand sanitising stations throughout the site. This will not only reduce the spread of germs, but also have a reassuring psychological effect on anyone who is anxious about returning to work.
More reliable tech
Lockdown conditions forced companies to upgrade their IT infrastructure simply to keep functioning. So improved technological support and better kit for teams split across home and office spaces is likely to be high priority, both for the smooth running of businesses and to make sure employees feel valued and included wherever they are working.
Focus on wellbeing
Following all the upheaval of 2020 so far, employees’ emotional wellbeing should also be a key focus for managers keen to help the workforce come through this unstable period and into the new normal of professional life.
What’s your next move?
How do you feel about working in an office again? What kind of safe workplace setup would convince you to switch roles? If you’re ready to look at new opportunities, see our current vacancies or call us on 01225 313130 to talk over your options.