After more than a year of remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are starting to reopen their offices—and workers have mixed feelings. Some relish the idea of collaborating with colleagues in-person and swapping their makeshift home office on their kitchen table for a dedicated workspace.
But those looking forward to returning to the office seem to be in the minority. Around two-thirds of workers say they are worried about the transition, according to a survey of 1,000 full- and part-time workers conducted by Envoy in mid-February.
As many as 29% value the flexibility and safety of remote work so much that they say they will quit their jobs if their employers insist, they come back to the office.
The reasons being stated as to why workers feel so stressed out about going back to the office, along with ways to make the transition easier, according to mental health experts.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has recently said ‘Brits – especially younger workers – should return to the office as pandemic restrictions ease’.
The Chancellor has expressed concerns that staff could lose crucial work experience while the economy returns. He said it was “really important” for younger staff especially.
Sunak admitted that working remotely and mostly through Zoom had been “not great” for those at the early stages of their careers. He described face-to-face interactions for this group as particularly “valuable”.
Workers are expected to return to the office at step four of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of restrictions after July 19.
Sunak said: “I think for young people, especially, that ability to be in your office, be in your workplace and learn from others more directly, is something that’s really important and I look forward to us slowly getting back to that.”
The Chancellor said that over a third of the working population had received state support during the pandemic, including through the furlough and self-employment support schemes.
Feelings about returning to the office are not all bad, though, many workers are looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues and a sense of normalcy in the workplace.
Some are very eager to return to normal, especially if they have been caring for young children at home during work hours, and are craving adult stimulation and routine, we are seeing that the majority of individuals express a desire for some sort of hybrid work model going forward, such as three days in the office, two days at home.”
It is definitely hard to give up the flexibility and ease of working from home, however, there are several advantages of resuming work in an office that the home environment lacks, these benefits may include rebuilding social connections and curbing the loneliness many experienced during lockdown, fewer distractions that reduce your productivity, and a firmer boundary between your work and home life.
Start connecting with individuals or smaller groups of people first before moving on to interactions with an entire team, start building your support network at work again and specifically prioritize spending time with co-workers who are supportive and get along well with you. Offer to have a socially distanced meeting in person outside of work or a casual coffee break while working to connect with them.”
Keep in mind that the safety precautions of the pandemic upended social norms, like shaking hands. Figuring out what feels comfortable to you now and developing a plan to respect your personal boundaries can help you feel safer.
Having a plan on what approach feels safe, comfortable, and avoids feeling awkward is ideal. Modelling this approach with co-workers can also set the expectations for how they are to engage with you. This makes it easier for everyone to focus on the work they love.”
Finally, talk to your boss to see if you can continue clocking in remotely, at least for a portion of the week, so you can maintain some flexibility, if it has been working for you.
State your desire and come up with a plan that would work for your boss and how it will benefit your job to have these needs met. For example, you will be more efficient and productive without having to commute.
How to Navigate a Complicated Post-Pandemic World
Even as you work to make the transition easier, returning to the office may feel overwhelming at times. Practicing self-care can help you cope with the stress of change.
Start getting into the routine of a regular workday a week beforehand to allow a smoother transition, follow a healthy routine with timely meals, consistent sleep timings, adequate physical activity, and relaxation time. Set aside breaks at work at regular intervals to destress and rejuvenate yourself during work hours.
Try not to put pressure on yourself to perform at peak-pandemic levels right away.
Try not to feel guilty if you are not totally thrilled to be back in your office as there will definitely be some desirable things absent.
Getting back to normal, or to a new normal, will take some time and you will need to be patient with yourself as you adjust.
Just how long this transition takes will vary from person to person and might last anywhere from three weeks to three months.
Reminding yourself that, just like working remotely, going back to the office will eventually feel like a normal part of life, one that comes with advantages, as well as some challenges and will help you strengthen resilience against the stress of change.
What This Means For You
As more people get vaccinated, employers are beginning to bring workers back to the office after more than a year of working from home. The transition is not likely to be easy, though, and many workers are afraid they will lose certain perks and be less safe if they shift away from remote work.
This will mean discussions with senior management about trying a hybrid approach that keeps you working remotely, at least some of the time. If it is a requirement to be in the office, try to focus on the potential benefits, like reduced loneliness and improved productivity. Setting personal boundaries, practicing self-care, and taking a gradual approach to socializing can also help alleviate anxieties.
Powering real estate decisions with occupancy data
Real estate is the second largest cost and there is an opportunity to unlock significant savings in underused space. Lack of indisputable occupancy information prevents businesses from planning and implementing effective real estate strategies that achieve cost reductions and energy savings.
A workplace technology solution that accurately captures space usage and provides detailed insights to make informed science-based decisions that achieve real estate optimisation and support carbon reduction strategies will be an effective tool to assist with these decisions.
Understanding the workplace and engaging employees
Combining sensors, analytics, digital signage and software integration to understand space performance and engage employees within the space is a powerful tool. All of this can be collected without tracking people or their personal information.
Interactive digital signage enables employees to navigate the workplace effectively while providing valuable and timely local information, scalable analytics informs workplace experts and space designers about employee behaviour which helps validate design decisions and measure employee acceptance.
Workplace environments play an important role in defining the employee experience. This in turn aide’s recruitment, productivity and retention. Understanding how employees interact with the workplace can guide the design process to enhance the workplace performance and overall employee experience.
Create a common workplace brand experience
Great companies aspire to create a common workplace brand experience to shape their corporate culture. As more companies move towards an agile working design, employees are often faced with the challenge of getting use to a new working environment which can lead to lost hours, reduced productivity, stress and uncertainty.
Occupancy-led infrastructure management
Delivering the effective and efficient management of workplace operations and resources can be a challenge without accurate real-time information.
This technology facilitates the proactive management of building infrastructure and resource allocation through occupancy led automation. Occupancy, environmental and air-quality data is directly integrated into building environment controls and resource booking tools to enable the responsive management that reduces underutilised resources, unnecessary energy usage and assists businesses in achieving their carbon strategy.
With the stubborn resistance of Covid19 and companies being forced to adapt to the new normal, it has become vital to know how your office space is being utilised not only for financial reasons but to ensure you are providing your employees with the safest working environment possible.
Many companies whilst fully committed to protecting their workforce are also under tight financial constraints due to the global economic situation brought about by worldwide lock downs and the economy contracting as a result.
We work with technology companies that have developed desk monitoring and space utilisation systems which is aimed at not only protecting your workforce but going forward will provide you with data to optimise the usage you get from your floor space.
Every desk has a cordless PIR fitted on the underside that will tell you if a desk is occupied, vacant or has been vacated within a pre-defined period of time (a member of staff may be getting a drink or on a restroom break). This desk occupancy can be monitored in real time or looked at retrospectively. Automatic alarms can be raised if 2 adjacent desks are occupied breaking your company’s policy on social distancing or should too many desks be occupied within a predefined area.
This data can be also used to see if you require more meeting rooms, hot desks or general floor space and may result in preventing unnecessary costly alterations to your office being given the go ahead.
Contact Tim Rycroft to interconnect your building