When and how to get back to the office

By Pelican Director Cheryl Bennett

3 minute read

 Key takeaways

  • Research shows some would rather quit their jobs than go back to the office.
  • Open conversations are needed about the benefits and concerns of post-lockdown arrangements.
  • Consider how a hybrid solution could be mutually beneficial.

Employees are quitting rather than giving up working from home.” This was the headline in many news outlets in June. But while some businesses have given up office tenancies for good in favour of permanent remote working, others, including many big companies, are telling people in no uncertain terms to get back to their desks.

Now the end of lockdown is here, how can employers make the transition from home to office easier for those who have embraced the new normal?

Highlight the benefits

Working from home, juggling home school, conducting every meeting online; it took a lot of getting used to. But after more than a year, it’s become normality for many. When talking to your team about a return the office, be mindful that you’re asking them once again to make a big change, and change is often a source of anxiety.

Simply making the business case for them coming back could be interpreted as a lack of trust, or worse still, a threat that they’ll be out of a job if they refuse. Instead, have an open conversation about any worries, and highlight the benefits for them of being back in the office.

Many of our best ideas come from collaboration and impromptu creative brainstorming, or even over a morning coffee with colleagues. In the office you have a dedicated workspace, free from the distractions of that pile of laundry or a dishwasher that needs emptying. It’s also a space you can leave behind at the end of the day, giving you a clear separation between work and home.

And though commuting is rarely anyone’s favourite part of the day, for some that time on the train or in the car to catch up on a podcast or read a book is a sanctuary and the only slice of time they get to themselves.

The mental health benefits of being around other people cannot be underestimated. Nor can the physical benefits of an appropriate workspace with ergonomic chairs.

Striking a balance.

It’s important not to dismiss out of hand any legitimate arguments people may have for working from home. The past year has proved many roles can be successfully carried out anywhere, and given people a taste work/life balance they won’t want to give up. During periods of lockdown and while on furlough, people have had a lot of time to reflect on what they really want from their jobs and how they and how they want to spend their time. It’s been a stark reminder that life’s too short.

Dismissing requests to continue working from as being lazy or difficult may result in people looking for more flexible employment elsewhere. At the same time, allowing your teams to continue remote working indefinitely may not be sustainable.

For many businesses the solution is a hybrid working arrangement, and the next generations of job seekers may even expect to be offered this; flexibility is certainly a job perk that will attract more talent and help you retain staff.

If you’re considering this approach you need to make sure it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Agree the parameters for remote working; perhaps they need to be in for the Monday team meeting, or should agree WFH days the week before.

Remember that hybrid working could have benefits for you too. It may allow you to reduce overheads by downsizing office space or hot-desking, you may even be able to move locations. Conversely, it may incur a cost through the need to supply IT and other office equipment for staff home workspaces.

You might also want to invest in software can help monitor working. As working from home has flourished, demand for employee monitoring software has surged. Programs such as Time Doctor, ActivTrak, Teramind and the dystopian-sounding StaffCop have all seen huge upticks in demand. If this is something you decide to go ahead with you must tell employees that they’re being monitored and why.

What are your and their legal rights.

Until 19 July the government guidance was to still work from home where possible. Now, while you can ask people to return to the office, you still have a responsibility to ensure your working environment is safe for staff.

Employers have a duty of care to all their staff and must treat people reasonably and fairly. This includes being as understanding as possible when dealing with any concerns people have about returning to work. Bear in mind that, although measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing are now ‘recommended’ rather than compulsory, keeping them in place may alleviate some peoples’ anxieties.

The first step is to talk to staff individually and find out what’s important to them; you may be surprised at how many actually want to get back to their desks. But for those who have benefited from home-working, and proven they can do it effectively, don’t be resistant to a flexible working pattern.

If you need help communicating new working arrangements with your team, speak to one of our experts today.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSRfoodpackaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategydesigncontent creationpublic relations and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.


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