The Strangest of times.
The past 16 months has for most of us been the strangest of times. Almost in an instant the familiarity of the office as our daily workplace was taken away and replaced with an enforced working from home model. A model some of us initially embraced as a refreshing change, especially those for whom it removed lengthy commutes giving us more time with our families.
It did, however, present some people with their ultimate horror; homes already bursting at the seams now needing to accommodate not just daily living but also provide office space too. Laptops on dining room tables, kitchens doubling up as cooking and working spaces, bedrooms becoming places to both sleep and work, all these became an all too familiar sight for many.
As we start to move out of the constant lockdowns, and life looks to be moving back towards “the new normal” whatever that is, many of us are looking more closely at what this means for us in our work life.
Return to working in the office?
Firms are starting to formalise their ‘Return to the Office’ plans and opening their offices for employees. With views on the return approach differing from firm to firm, what does it all mean for us?
Some of us may have taken the great leap of moving home during the pandemic – often to locations more remote from our office location, with the expectation that ‘post pandemic’ we are likely to adopt a hybrid working pattern, with only 1 or 2 days a week in the office (or in some cases even less).
Some of us have changed jobs, in some cases involving locations we would never have previously considered and spent many months working remotely with colleagues we have yet to meet face to face.
Many of us have been able to take a more flexible approach to the hours during which we do our work – gone is the 9-5 pattern for many. School runs can now be much more easily accommodated, fitting in appointments with dentists, opticians and the like no longer mean fighting for that crucial early evening or Saturday morning appointment time.
Almost all of us miss the social interaction of working in the same location as our colleagues, the hustle and bustle of office life, the change of scenery going into the office brings. We constantly hear new phrases such as “Zoom Fatigue” something we can all associate with. But does this mean we want to simply revert to how it was pre-pandemic, or has the world changed forever?
Some of us cannot wait to get back to an office environment and put our homes back to being just home. Others have embraced working from home and are happy to keep this either partially or wholly as a working pattern.
Many companies have been surprised by the productivity and success of the working from home model and are now looking at how they can continue to leverage this. They have chances to greatly reduce the need for expensive office space, more options to keep experienced staff with flexible working opportunities and the ability to widen their recruitment ‘catchment area’.
Others feel their employees should be back in the office full time and are looking for this to be the case as soon as possible.
There have been many articles in recent days on this subject, prompting much thought and debate.
Pretty much everyone has an opinion, so we thought we would share some of ours and seek to gain some insight into how some of you are feeling about it all.
We here at Simplify Consulting have always had a flexible approach to our working day, although pre pandemic much of our work was centred around being onsite either in our own office or those of our clients. Here are some of our consultants’ views and thoughts on “what next”.
Aneta Murdza-Figiel – Wealth Consultant
Throughout my career I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity of occasional homeworking – a couple of days per week, if required, which was a convenient option. I have never been a full-time home worker though. The occasional day working from home is a completely different proposition to a prolonged spell of homeworking, especially when combined with the company of the rest of your household.
Moving into this new routine imposed by the pandemic required time, planning and management. Changing our dining room table into an occasional office, whilst other family members were out of the house had not posed much of a challenge before. It was a different story when we needed to transform the house not only to accommodate two offices but also two ‘school classrooms’… As with so many other parents out there, it was a real challenge but thanks to the amazing support from my bosses and colleagues, we made it.
The school reopening was a big milestone for me personally, but I must admit, I am already looking forward to the next one – being able to work in the office. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy spending more time with my family thanks to less time spent in the car, being stuck in traffic when commuting most days, however, I do miss the office environment. I have realised there are so many aspects of working with my colleagues face to face that helps me personally and professionally.
I am lucky enough that my commute to the office only takes around 20 minutes. The journey gives me the time in the morning to clear my mind, switch from the home morning routine and put my professional head on. It allows me to go through the plan for the day ahead and start fresh as I enter the office. I miss morning chats whilst getting a cuppa and although I am not the ‘chattiest one’ in the office. I do miss being around my colleagues – the laugh, the office banter, lunch runs or being able to talk through problems, get quick decisions and work out solutions together.
A change of scenery is another aspect which I realised helps my mind to distinguish between work and home. Going home after a busy day in the office helps me to switch off, enjoy the break with the family more and use the time to recharge more effectively.
These are just a few aspects I personally miss. Everyone’s circumstances and experience over the past year have been different though and no doubt people will feel differently about going back to their workplace.
How we all make the most from what we have learnt over the past year and seek to adapt to peoples changing attitudes will be key 😊
Sheila Sambrook – Head of Delivery
I changed my job during the pandemic and have yet to meet most of my colleagues face to face. It seems surreal that I have formed working relationships with so many people over the past 6 months all remotely.
Zoom Fatigue, Team’s fatigue, Web-ex fatigue, yes, yes, and yes, but where would we have been without them? They have all been invaluable in adding the “face” to the people I interact with.
I’m sure we all recall the “old days” joining a conference call when two or three of us were at home and everyone else in a meeting room around a “star phone”. It really didn’t work well!
I miss the office, undoubtedly. I miss the social interaction, the chats over morning coffee, the jokes and good-natured teasing. Do I miss it enough to want to be there 5 days a week though? In my case, no.
I am very fortunate in that I have space at home to have a dedicated study, which I now use only for work. Being able to separate my home life and work life within the same building is crucial for me. I think if I were using the dining room table and needing to pack away my “mobile office” each day I would feel very differently.
I have spent years with lengthy commutes, originally 90 mins each way via trains into London, and then 6 years commuting by car round the M25 and through the Dartford crossing (not for the faint hearted.) Working from home and having the 5 second commute to my “office” is therefore something I relish and am so grateful for. Also being completely truthful it is saving me a small fortune!
I wouldn’t want to solely work from home, however. This past year has clarified that much for me. I am a sociable person and I need to be with other people at least some of the time. A hybrid model is without doubt my preference.
I do find there are many other advantages to working from home – you can concentrate when there’s a lengthy report or presentation to be written, the distractions are few (unless you count pets wanting attention or feeding! Or the sun shining through the window beckoning you to be outside, although in the UK that doesn’t happen too often 😊)
But you simply can’t beat face to face interaction for some things.
As we transition to what will be our new normal, I am personally looking forward to our “brave new world” of working.
Lots has changed over the past year, lots of advantages to be leveraged and lessons to be learned….. let’s see how we all get on learning them!
How do you feel about it all?
How do you feel about the transition “back to the office”?
Have your circumstances changed during or due to the pandemic?
Do you want something different now, or are you just wanting to go back to pre-pandemic norms?
We are really keen to hear your thoughts and opinions on this and look forward to reading all your comments?
Sheila Sambrook Aneta Murdza-Figiel
Head of Delivery Wealth Consultant