Over the past eighteen months, we’ve all agreed that the COVID pandemic has changed everything…and we’ve shared our doubts about returning to familiar work patterns and workplaces.
Yet, despite the headlines, survey after survey has shown that employees still want to work outside the home, at least some of the time. LeavePlanner’s particular favourite, a June questionnaire from the Institute of Public Accountants, found 89% of Brits wanting to return to the office.
Now, most of those potential returnees did express an important reservation – they wanted the option of working from home whenever they wished. But, given how apprehensive HR professionals have been about the changes that would accompany a long-term shift in working patterns, we’d recommend taking a few minutes out to contemplate the bottom line. It’s important to note that your co-workers mostly want to return to the office.
Here are some of the reasons they’ve given. You might be able to add some more of your own.
Let’s begin with the obvious one: socialisation. Most people want to be part of a team, and – Zoom calls notwithstanding – nothing beats the camaraderie of a shared workplace to keep you motivated, engaged and connected. More than 57% of the UK office staff polled by YouGov in the depths of lockdown said they were missing in-person conversations with their colleagues.
But there’s more to the return to the office than watercooler chats…
Striking the right work-life balance
Homeworking was supposed to make us more efficient. Surely, getting back the two hours we waste commuting would free up a bunch of productive time?
For large numbers of us, it just hasn’t worked out that way. According to the pundits, having our work area just a minute or two away from our beds has led nearly half of us to put in longer and more irregular hours than we would in an office.
It turns out that a daily commute contributes massively to a healthy work-life balance. Once you’ve made the effort to get up and get out, a brisk morning workout at the gym or a lunchtime trip to the park with a novel become easy targets.
Health & efficiency
Speaking of home offices, how’s yours? Do you have a well-organised personal workspace, or are you struggling to hang on to a section of the kitchen table?
Bad homeworking spaces aren’t just a matter of convenience. According to the Institute for Employment Studies, complaints of neck pain have risen by 58% and of back pain by 55% since lockdown started. The bottom line is that the DIY desks we’ve rigged up for ourselves simply aren’t good enough.
The same considerations apply to home telecoms. It turns out that reliance on slow, dropout-prone internet connections for Zoom calls compromises the quality of our working relationships.
Who’d have guessed that our boring old desk, swivel chair and business-model internet router would make such a difference?
Humans evolved to forage in small bands, so it’s no surprise that we find ourselves working more efficiently when we can see and talk to each other.
But the subtlety of that engagement might come as a surprise. A 2014 study found that a delay as short as one second on a phone or video call is enough to make responders see you as less friendly or focused. How often have delays affected your online meetings? Let’s reiterate: Microsoft Teams is better than nothing, but it’s no substitute for in-person conversation.
But when all is said and done, 51% of employers support the hybrid working model, and with software like LeavePlanner to help you, organising social distancing and work-from-home days will be a doddle.