As we have seen lockdown restrictions irreversibly eased, no longer are we asked to continue to work from home (WFH) if we can.
Whilst we have seen over the last few months workers return in the hospitality/leisure and non-essential retail sectors, many more businesses have seen workers continuing, even preferring to work from home.
Over recent months there has been much media coverage and discussion around the lasting impact of the pandemic on the world of work. It would seem, perhaps whilst the majority of businesses pre Covid have favoured more traditional ways of working with a workforce based at a place of work, a need to adapt coupled with increased take up of technology, much of which already existed, has highlighted that the physical place of work is perhaps not as important or deemed as essential as previously thought.
At the moment it would appear that there are two contrasting approaches to either the return to business or getting to grips with the new norm, these being either the hard-line return to the place of work or to indefinitely working from home. The latter though likely to be a mix of WFH and some in person attendance at the employers’ premises, hybrid working.
Certainly, it is challenging for employers to decide what might be best for them with the need to balance the needs of the businesses and those of its employees. In many cases WFH has suited employers and employees alike often providing for a better work life balance, without loss of productivity and perhaps even some sense of novelty. Though WFH has not suited all, either due to the nature of their work, access to suitable technology, a ‘space’ to work in through to general wellbeing and mental health.
We should probably expect for covid restrictions or the need for covid security to limit or mean that we might not see a full return to work for all. This aside are businesses really under pressure to consider how it manages its workforce? Is it paramount that we decide whether it’s a full return or time to offer hybrid working for all? It would seem many small and medium sized businesses have not considered their approach, perhaps either because they are pre-occupied with day to day matters or more likely they don’t know where to start.
Perhaps the start pointing is asking the question, what has changed? What is different about my business, how, who and where we work? Whilst doing nothing may seem the easiest option, it could be the costliest. Those businesses that don’t consider the lasting impact of the pandemic on the way we work and want to live our lives could be at risk of loss of personnel, challenges in recruitment and find themselves less competitive and profitable in the longer term.
There is also a risk that those offering hybrid working or perhaps even more extreme full and permanent working, fail to consider the wider implications. For centuries the place of work has provided a sense of identity and purpose, it has been a place that has harboured and embraced an organisations culture and values, it has been a power house for innovation, creativity and collaboration, a place to nurture, train and develop staff and physical representation of the business to its customers and marketplace. Can all this be replaced purely by digital connectivity?
Please don’t think this is the viewpoint of a luddite advocating a return to the office, more is the thought and concerns of someone who feels there is a real need for a well-considered approach to the way we all work in a post pandemic world.