The Call Back to The Office! Are we Willing?

After a few false dawns, it seems like some workplaces are calling for employees to be back in the office at least for a few days a week.  How do we, the workers, feel about this?  From a few straw polls conducted amongst friends, colleagues, and family – it seems that the response is very mixed.

One of my brothers has got used to working from home, says he can do everything he needs from home and has got very used to working from home, the structure of it – he had a horrible commute, which was a little like the film from the 90’s “Trains, Planes and Automobiles”.  I get from him, that he doesn’t quite get the benefit to him or his organisation for a return.  Added to that, he’s gained so much time for his family and life by not commuting – let alone the benefit to his sleep and health generally, I am imagining.  No more getting in at 7.00pm and leaving at 6.00am.  It’s been two flipping years. Two.  So, it’s not an adjustment after a few weeks – many people have restructured themselves, families, their homes around working from home (turning their sitting-rooms into offices) – so it isn’t a small adjustment to return, it’s huge – I am imagining those with families or young children are finding it hardest of all.  From a health point of view as long as you are disciplined whilst working from home, it is easier just to nip out for a walk, take that lunch – or is it?

Another member of my family also loves working from home and isn’t sure how he will feel if he gets the call up (not so far forthcoming).  He has complex spreadsheets to complete which requires loads of concentration, so he isn’t sure about how he will feel if the office chatterbox is constantly there at his elbow offering cups of tea.

Still others are thrilled to be returning!  The prospect of socialisation, the chats around the watercooler, collaboration on projects, the casual chit-chat in the corridor.  The one seemingly random conversation that solves a knotty problem.  The separation of home and work so that we stop “living at work and working from home”.  Time to get to the gym on the way home, meet a friend afterwork, have a meeting in a coffee shop for real, rather than a Zoom cuppa.  The joy that that can bring, and the variation.

I am sure that going forward, workplaces will be a lot more flexible and there will be some element of blended working, which might hit a happy balance between the two positions -ie those who relish working from home and those who are ready to break out because they are climbing the walls.

Having a choice in how we work is important to get some agency over how and where we work, and what work gives to us and what we give to work.  Certainly, over the last few years there has been no balance or choice – so, with a blended return to work, many will feel that there is still the option to turn the camera off Zoom whilst in the PJs but be appropriately suited and booted for the few days in the office.  The whole change of dynamic will take time to get used to, but perhaps even the reluctant returners will find the benefit of socialisation, variety and that separation of work and homelife.

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