With the end of social distancing restrictions creeping ever-nearer, the push by some employers to get staff back into the office is clashing with employees who have embraced flexible or remote working as the “new norm”.
A recent study, conducted by HR software company Personio, found that one in four UK workers are prepared to quit their current job if pressed to return to full-time office work. The study also found that over 37% of respondents feel that their company is purposely avoiding incorporating new, hybrid working practices, and is persisting with compulsory attendance.
It’s easy to see both sides of the argument.
If anything, the last year has proven that lots of work can be done from anywhere, and a more remote hiring process has broadened employment horizons for many employees that they’re now (understandably) reluctant to see end.
One the other hand, many executives have warned against the allure of remote work, saying it could hurt collaboration and company culture. While remote working has proven to be sustainable for this relatively short year-and-a-bit, some are worried over long-term productivity and at-home burnout if restrictions last much longer.
So, where does this leave UK employers who are left to find a compromise between employee needs and maintaining their traditional workspaces?
Despite the current WFH buzz, having a traditional office space is still important for many Britons. Two key issues uncovered by the Personio study were respondents feeling unproductive while working from home and having a lowered morale when not working in the same space as their co-workers.
To help smooth the transition from remote to office work for employees, it’s all about amplifying these strengths – namely the social and collaborative aspects of the office – while mitigating the drawbacks. It’s important that employers remain mindful of the readjustment required to return to a more ridged working schedule and the stress of commuting, particularly for those who are still looking after small children or employees that have been shielding during the pandemic.
One McKinsey report says that this is the ideal time for employers “to engage and strengthen overall connections with employees”.
While it might not be feasible for every organisation to adopt new, flexible working policies, creating a welcome office environment where people feel their concerns and anxieties are acknowledged and responded to is incredibly important for rebuilding your company’s work structure, productivity, and workforce morale.
Companies that have steadfastly supported their employees through the pandemic have demonstrated their reliability and increased their reputation in the eyes of the nation. Now is the time for many to continue to build on that trust and utilise this transition period to direct the future of your working practices.