People need people. Ok, it’s a pretty general statement but the last year has taught us that it’s true. After months in semi-isolation, thousands of us are yearning to get back to the office.
In the initial weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was something of a novelty about the idea of working from home. For many of us, it’s something we’d always toyed with and for a while we were enthusiastic about the opportunity to finally join the remote working revolution.
But fast forward 12 months and those endless Zoom calls are wearing thin as we’d rather be talking face to face at the office. Thankfully, the widespread urge to return to the days of office working, coffee machine debriefs and sandwich shop gossip couldn’t be better timed.
With lockdown now gently easing, it looks like we might finally return to some semblance of normality this summer. And that’s not only a good thing for struggling city centre cafes, but it’s also a good thing for naturally extroverted office workers.
5 benefits of working in the office
1. Connection – There is an almost imperceptible “something” about reacting to a person and bouncing ideas off them in person that cannot be replicated over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Brainstorming encourages creativity and can lead to truly game-changing initiatives.
2. Team spirit – Socialising is a major part of working life that many of us have missed over the last 12 months. Office life isn’t just about work, it’s about catching up over lunch, building lifelong friendships and cultivating a life for yourself outside of your home environment.
3. Culture – Company culture is an increasingly popular buzzword, but it has surprising depth. A good office working environment and a cohesive culture can help inspire employees, keep them motivated and give them a sense of belonging that they’re unlikely to get working from home.
4. Value – At the start of the pandemic, Kirstie Allsopp observed that if your job can be done from home, it can be done from anywhere. This could potentially open the floodgates to businesses replacing UK-based workers with outsourced employees from other countries. Working in the office allows you to assert your value directly.
5. Escape – If you’re working from home then you are, essentially, always at work. We are never truly away from the office these days thanks to our smartphones, but being able to separate work and home is a lot easier when there’s some physical space involved.
A safe working environment
There are simple steps business leaders can take to mitigate the concerns of their employees and create a safe working environment, following government guidance:
- Invest in hand sanitiser stations
- Complete a thorough risk assessment and take reasonable steps to prevent harm
- Rearrange the office to make social distancing easier. This means not only separating workstations but arranging them so employees can work side-by-side rather than face-to-face and installing screens or barriers between them
- Regularly brief employees on safety and security measures
- Normalise the use of face coverings or masks
- Consult staff on any decisions
Back to the office
Global financial services company Jeffries found that 61% of the UK office workers they surveyed would return to the office immediately if they could, and that survey was taken nine months ago. Today, it’s likely those figures would be even higher.
While the working world is never going to look the same post-pandemic, initial reports of the death of the office have been greatly exaggerated. So, while the future seems to point towards a balance of the two approaches, it’s important to note that office work should always be an option for those who thrive on the spontaneity and collaboration that can only happen face to face, worker to worker.