I’m not coming back to the office, thank you!Posted in : HR Updates on 4 August 2020
Last month I wrote about the ‘reluctant returners’; those employees who held serious reservations about returning to the office in the midst of the current global pandemic. But there are many staff among them who are quite comfortable staying at home and have reaped many benefits by doing so. Longer term, it will be interesting to see how employee expectations change going forward and whether employers will use this experience to review their existing flexible working arrangements and embrace a flexible work culture. Many tech firms, where much of the knowledge work can be carried out remotely, have already made announcements that employees can continue to work at home ‘forever’ where their job allows. But it is unlikely that this approach will work for every employer.
So why are so many loving working from home?
There is no doubt that employees will save on the cost of their commute to and from work. Many cars will have sat idly in driveways for weeks during lockdown, saving a fortune in filling up on fuel. There are obvious savings on public transport fares too. We’re also less likely to nip out for a sandwich at lunchtime and overall spending decreases when we’re sitting at home with less opportunity to pop into the shops.
Many will have enjoyed the peace and quiet at home - well apart from when parents were home-schooling!. There is something to be said for being able to lock ourselves away, free from distractions so that we can just get our heads down and focus. Being away from the hustle and bustle in the office can often allow more space for concentration and inspiration.
Having more time at home can allow us to reconnect with family and do things together that previously weren’t possible. Simple things like sitting down for family meals (rather than scoffing a few bites before rushing out the door again) or spending time playing board games can really help bond relationships. It’s nice to be able to take a step back from the usual manic routine and appreciate the things that are important in life.
The things that we used to have to rush to do when we got home from work are now carried out at a much less frantic pace. Making breakfasts and dinner can be done at leisure. Being at home for deliveries and wearing comfy jogging pants are also a plus!
There is no doubt that remote working brings both opportunities and challenges for employers. Not all jobs can be carried out from home which can cause resentment among those that have to continue to travel to work every day. Furthermore, for many businesses it is not ideal for every member of staff to be locked away at home, every day, all of the time. While technology has been a godsend for businesses during lockdown, it really cannot replace face-to-face interactions, team ethos and overall camaraderie. Many employees will feel isolated being away from the office and the lack of distinction between work and home becomes quickly blurred. There is always the temptation to skip lunch and work longer hours at home where there are no colleagues to chat to in the staff canteen or no rush hour commute to avoid at the end of the day. But what are the longer-term mental health implications of this?
When we weight up the potential pitfalls of remote working it is interesting to consider how these might negate the benefits of such. Employers should definitely be open to considering the longer-term capacity to promote and support home working but a balanced approach which involves some home working is likely to be more appropriate for most organisations.
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