Having read a couple of news articles about the great return to the office in recent days, I found it hard to imagine everyone heading back in droves. Indeed, as I was drafting this article while listening to talk radio, the discussion turned to this very subject - are we going to return to the office?
For many, working from home (WFH) has been a blessing in terms of time and money saved. Those who dreaded the drudgery of the commute were relieved of the stress. However, some people actually value the time between home and office. For them it helps compartmentalise home and work, as well as offering a time to think or de-stress.
A couple of days ago the head of strategy at Canary Wharf Group was on the radio insisting that people wanted to get back to their offices asap. It's easy to suggest that those who lease office space are perhaps a little biased in their thinking, but the truth is not everyone has found joy in WFH.
For example, callers to the radio show spoke of the space issue, both in terms of the physical and the mental/emotional. The small size of British homes means few have space for a dedicated home office. Thus, working at the kitchen table, or in the marital bedroom, while trying to home school the kids or accommodate a second WFH adult.
WFH has been a benefit to those who do have a dedicated workspace at home. And for those who find office politics a drag, or their work persona (being polite/positive no matter what) a burden, WFH has had a positive effect on their mental health.
The reverse is true for the extroverts who thrive in an office environment. For them the monotony of lockdown has been a detriment to their wellbeing.
For organisations, the pull back to the office has a lot to do with the weight of history. Everything was set up for, and organised around, having people in the office environment. That’s what ‘normal’ is.
Now that WFH exists, it raises a lot of questions: cost of office space against complexity of WFH; ease of culture and communication against the attractiveness of WFH to employees; convenience of having everyone together against the health risks of having everyone together, etc.
Are We Going Back?
I really wouldn’t want to predict what will happen once all restrictions are lifted and going back to the office is an option. If it’s not possible to have the best of both worlds through part-time WFH, I think that there are big decisions to be made by both individuals and organisations about what is best for them.
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