As life begins to get back to normal, most employers will be opting for policies that meet a hybrid approach between working from home and in the office.
Last year, when the Government confirmed that employers in England could start bringing workers back into the office after lockdown, employees weren’t all that happy with the news. At this time, 91% of UK office workers said they’d rather remain at home… some of the time, at least. That was just three months into the crisis, when many were riding the remote working high. There was no commute. No expensive train fares. No queue for the microwave. Working at home was pretty much a dream come true.
But as working from home has continued for many people, it seems that some employees have been struggling with their remote working situation.
Workers report feeling more pressure at home. They’re feeling disconnected. They’re lonely. It’s not surprising that one year later, three quarters of employees said they wanted their work life to return to being largely or completely ‘normal’.
Working in the office might be a distant memory for some but there are certainly a few aspects of office life that we’re fond of! More and more employers are encouraging their employees to head back to the (COVID-secure) office. And here are the things that employees will have to look forward to when they return:
Dreaming of speaking to someone - anyone - not from your household? You’re not alone. Humans are inherently social creatures, and nearly two thirds of employees have said that they’ve missed chatting with co-workers over lockdown. While Zoom and other tools have played a big role during the pandemic, they’re no match for face-to-face.
Understanding & Tolerance
Some of us have been a little more judgemental than usual during lockdown, and there’s psychology behind it. We’ve been living in our own bubbles where we don’t always see other people’s side of the story. We’ve judged people for counting a scotch egg as a substantial meal - or for not doing so. We need to start interacting with others.
Chats around the watercooler aren’t just social; they’re a really great opportunity to collaborate and come up with new ideas. We’ve been surrounded by little else but our own perspectives, and that’s not always a good thing. We need to be around other people from different backgrounds to see things from different angles and innovate.
Employees organically absorb so much information from simply being in an environment and listening in to what’s going on around them, this is especially the case for new hires. It boosts inclusivity. It’s incredibly difficult to retain this level of inclusivity with remote working, when employees are only privy to conversations they’re explicitly invited to join over phone or Zoom.
The hangover McDonald's run in the morning, or the early Friday afternoon finish with a pub stop on the way. Feeling part of a team, sharing experiences, and going through things together - no matter what they are - all help employees to build relationships and work together towards a single goal, rather than feeling like a single cog in isolation.
A Government advert was recently targeted by the British Safety Council for showing a woman working at home from her sofa. Ergonomic? No. A reality? Sadly, yes. Many haven’t had the luxury of a dedicated home office environment, working from the bed (56%), or even the floor (39%), making it very tricky to separate work and home lives.
One of the reasons for enjoying working from home is now becoming one of the main reasons to get back into the office. It’s ‘me time’. Sitting on a train or riding the bus gives you time to think, listen to the radio or a podcast, and collect your thoughts. The commute downtime is something many took for granted until it suddenly disappeared.
72% of UK households experienced a rise in energy bills during lockdown, with the average increase standing at £32 per month as people used more electricity working from home. Carrying on for much longer, and there’s a real risk of widespread fuel poverty across the country. Fortunately, bills should drop as employees head back.
Reimagining the Future
Right now, employers have a decision to make. Will they continue to reap the benefits of remote working - such as lower overheads - or will they encourage all staff to head back to the office. There’s no one single solution that will work for every business, but for those planning on a 100% remote policy, it’s important to remember the big role offices play in employee wellbeing, and ensure that workers have access to a set up that’s good for them.