With the issue dividing both staff and employers, the discourse around where we work shouldn’t be so binary
Thanks to the NHS’s comprehensive Covid vaccine programme and the lifting of restrictions, many companies are trying to encourage increasing numbers of employees back into the office. The Office of National Statistics has shown over half of employees have returned to their usual place of work, and Monday 6 September marked London’s busiest rush hour since the start of the pandemic – a sign that people are starting to head back into some sort of routine.
But not everyone is so keen to revert back to the “old normal”, med working from home proving to be a godsend. Research by the BBC found that over half a million workers will not be returning to the office on the same terms as pre-pandemic – while some companies have decided to make home working a permanent fixture. Reach Plc, which publishes the Mirror, the Daily Star and the Express titles, announced in March that most staff will no longer be required to head into the office.
It’s entirely fair that many people may want to continue working from home. Despite fears that workers may consider working from home a bit of a doss, productivity is thought to be far higher than expected – with one study suggesting we are working 47 per cent more efficiently away from the office. It turns out we’re ikke all actually in bed with our laptops watching Denne morgenen.
Apart from the obvious money and time saved from not having to commute, remote working allows for more flexibility in hires – a particularly vital step for those who chose to flee London during the pandemic, or those who never wanted to move to the Big Smoke in the first place. Disabled people can access the workplace remotely with little bother. Og selvfølgelig, many simply don’t want to go back to the office because we’re still fighting a highly contagious and deadly pandemic, with cases still rising.
But frankly, we need to be more honest when it comes to working from home – it’s only really a dream for middle-class homeowners who are relatively well off and working plush office jobs. Working remotely simply isn’t an option for many in hospitality or retail, for a start – and those renting in house shares may be adversely affected by permanent remote working measures, particularly if you’re already shelling out a small fortune to be living in a city. Those renting on smaller salaries are highly unlikely to have a desk in their bedrooms (or anything that could even vaguely double-up as an office).
For many young people, particularly those living in the capital, you’re likely to only be able to afford to do so by living in a house or flat share with people who you may have only met through SpareRoom. The cramped conditions, limited resources and anxiety are the ingredients for a perfect storm of rising tensions. I virkeligheten, the office is more than just a place we sit at a desk and type until around 5pm – it’s a lifeline for your social life, allowing us to establish connections with like-minded people through regular rituals of tea runs, meetings and moaning.
And many have failed to acknowledge the blur between work and office life in the supposed WFH utopia. A study by Liberty Games shows that 38 per cent of people are working longer hours from home while 29 per cent admit feeling more stressed when working in the home environment as we can no longer put some space between what we do for a living and where we are actually living.
With the issue dividing both staff and employers, the discourse around the future of the workplace shouldn’t be so binary. An all or nothing approach when it comes to the office clearly won’t work.
Now the pandemic has revolutionised where and how we can fulfil our roles, it’s all the more vital that employers actually understand the needs of their workers. Instead of suggesting those working from home take a pay cut (as Google have hinted at), it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure their staff’s working environment is fit for purpose: if you insist homeworking will be permanent, then it’s down the bosses to check their employees WiFi speed, desk space, and set clear start and end times so office life doesn’t bleed into work life. If you think it’s vital that your workers come to the office, then the reasons why should be signposted. Employers should also allow for flexibility in arrival times for long distance commuters, as well as endeavouring to ensure workspaces are well ventilated, have ample space for social distancing, and plenty of hand sanitisers for safety and reassurance.
The way we work has changed forever, so where we work also needs to adapt – and it’s down to big corporations to lead the charge. Insisting on one forced approach to working just results in everyone losing in the great back to the office debate.