Most employees would prefer working in an office after a Covid-19 vaccine

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.

‘Bubbled’ staff

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.

Hygiene protocols

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.

Sources:

Office Space in Town, OSiT survey reveals impact of lockdown remote working on wellbeing and health & safety, June 2020
Erica Volini, Returning to work in the future of work, Deloitte Insights, May 2020


12 tips for effective virtual meetings

With home working here to stay for the foreseeable, virtual meetings have become a standard part of many employees’ lives.

Managing workloads against a backdrop of family members, housemates or curious pets can be tricky anyway, let alone if you’re required to spend much of your day on camera.

Need some pointers? Take a look at our top virtual meeting tips.

1. Write a clear agenda

Creating an agenda is a quick job – write a few bullet points and distribute them ahead of time. (If you’re not the meeting host and the call is over 30 minutes long, ask the organiser whether they can provide an agenda.) Efficiently run virtual meetings help everyone to make the most of the time and take that productive energy into the rest of the day.

2. Stick to your time slot

Determine your meeting length and stick to it, with one person keeping an eye on the agenda items and the clock. Fresh ideas don’t flourish in meetings that drag on way past the scheduled time.

3. Create a calm environment

Not so easy to achieve if you’ve got children or pets vying for camera time, or neighbours building an extension next door. But do try to organise a bit of quiet in your working environment before you join a meeting.

Start by letting other members of your household know you’re about to start a call and when it’s scheduled to end. Asking school age children to make a ‘do not disturb’ sign for the door will introduce the concept of interruption-free periods (worth a try, at least!) and letting any other workers in the house know you need a bit of calm will also help minimise distractions.

4. Be cautious with sensitive info

We tend to speak louder in virtual meetings than we would in person. If you’re working with confidential information, just remember to close windows and doors instead of bellowing the details out into the neighbourhood.

5. Learn the ropes

Familiarise yourself with the features of the conferencing tools you’re using, particularly how to activate and deactivate your microphone and camera. Learn the keyboard shortcuts for these actions so you can instantly mute or cut the camera if you need to.

If key people can’t attend it can be useful to record your meeting, so find out how to do that. To avoid interrupting the flow of a presentation, take advantage of any existing chat features to capture questions throughout the session. Then finish by tackling them in one go at the end.

6. Smile: you’re on camera

Kick off your virtual meetings with a smile and a polite greeting. Remain conscious of your facial expressions throughout – yes, you’re in your home environment, but any grimace you make is visible to everyone!

Remember to stay in shot so other users can see you’re engaged, not moving around or rearranging your desk. And don’t check your phone for personal messages – it’ll be pretty obvious what you’re doing!

7. Be considerate with sound

Remember that your microphone is probably closer to your keyboard than to your mouth. If you’re typing away during your meeting, hit mute to stop the sound of tapping keys interfering with the conversation. If people are having trouble hearing you, try turning off video.

8. Get the right kit

If you’re going to be participating in very frequent video calls, look into getting a decent webcam and headset with a microphone. Make sure your internet is fast enough, taking into account other usage in your household.

9. Share your screen with care

If you’re planning to present documents, close down the windows that are irrelevant to your call before you hit share. It’s a good way to avoid accidentally broadcasting anything confidential. Consider closing down your email too, so you don’t get distracting pop-ups while you’re presenting.

10. Avoid dead air

If you’re asked a tricky question, don’t use precious meeting time to look up the answers while everyone sits and waits. Say you’ll report back later and let the meeting continue with energy and purpose.

11. Dress appropriately

Your home and work identities may have blurred recently, but that doesn’t mean you should lose professional pride. While your immediate team might not care if you’re working in your oldest T-shirt, a senior manager might, and an outside person, new client or interviewee probably will. Strike the right visual tone for the person you’re meeting with, keeping the culture of your workplace in mind.

12. Look after your attendees

If you’re at a face-to-face meeting with socially distanced colleagues as well as virtual attendees, be aware that the people in the room may dominate the conversation. This is because they will be able to read body language, maintain eye contact and feel more connected to the task in hand. Make sure you invite comments and questions from remote attendees who may feel less inclined to contribute.

Interested in what’s out there?

We hope you found our virtual meeting tips useful! If all that home working has got you thinking about your career options, why not browse our current vacancies or call 01225 313130 to speak to an Appoint consultant?