In the last 18 months, we’ve gone from working 100% in offices to making the huge shift to remote working. Of course, for many there was no impact at all, they didn’t have the protection of working from home, to these frontline workers, who tirelessly maintained their status quo, we must thank you. Now, as restrictions gradually ease up and we reached the revised ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July 2021, we’re facing another new norm of hybrid working.
So, what are the positives and challenges of this latest change and how will we adapt?
A recent article by the BBC stated that many people are keen to return to the office as they’re feeling fatigued. Missing office and city-centre life. London’s famous Canary Wharf, once the professional home to 100,000 workers pre-covid, now has approximately 6,000.
Speaking to a 29 year old recently, who has navigated lockdown on their own, converting their spare bedroom into an office, now, they find themselves craving the return to office work, the face to face and social interaction.
Employees will thrive with their change of scenery as they transition to 2:3 day week between office and home. The interactions of seeing colleagues again, meetings face to face. Will this be a fad and soon the demons of commuting, pressures and socialising take over once again? Who knows?
We are likely to see a divide in the workforce imminently, and we must be empathic to everyone’s own personal circumstances:
- There are people who shouldn't go back in because they are vulnerable.
- People who don't want to because they feel safer and it suits them.
- People who want/need to because they're going mad at home.
- People who've never had the choice because of what they do.
Then there's employers and managers to consider:
- People who see an opportunity to save money and give more flexibility.
- Micro managers, who think people aren't working if they can't see them.
- Businesses that can't function easily this way.
- Businesses that couldn't and now can.
Boardrooms, HR teams, management and employees alike, will all be facing various degrees of emotions in anticipation of this latest change.
What we do know though, is that in many cases, millions of people across the world have not been back into the office since March 2020, some perhaps even longer (and some who never left). We must take them into account during this huge transition. Perhaps revisiting their onboarding, or even a return to work procedure must be followed for every employee. A pressure on people’s mental health occurred with last year’s rearrangement, it could indeed recur though when returning to the old norm.
How can we support our workforce and prepare our greatest assets for Hybrid Working?