We regularly hear the phrase ‘back to normal’, when referring to a post-Covid life, but what does ‘normal’ or ‘new normal’ look like with regards to working from home and the office?
The COVID pandemic has forced a substantial number of companies, across many sectors to help set up remote working facilities for their staff.
Many of these businesses may have previously resisted the temptation to offer this opportunity to staff, whilst many businesses operate in sectors where remote working has an impact on how their company can operate. It is safe to say that the transition to working from home, has had to be very quick.
Whilst the short-term working solution has been dealt with, what next? Will everyone simply return to the office as usual, on a Monday to Friday, when safe to do so? Will the morning and after work commutes be as stressful and busy as before?
It seems that the working from home debate has forced most businesses to review their internal processes and plans for how they will manage this matter, long term.
Companies such as Goldman Sachs have already made it clear that working home, does not work for their company ‘culture’, whilst JP Morgan and HSBC have a slightly different view on this and will offer staff the opportunities to work from home full time and also the option of a ‘Hybrid’ working pattern - flexible working between home and the office.
From a member of staff’s perspective, the working from home experience has been equally split.
Those with ample working space at home will have found the transition much easier than those working from bedrooms, living rooms and kitchen tables. Add in the stresses of childcare and home schooling and there is definitely a section of the working population who will feel they will benefit and enjoy going back to the office again. There have also been numerous reports of staff having to work longer hours because they are at home and near to their laptops and PC’s. The return to the office offers the feeling of a more structured working week.
There will also be a large section who have enjoyed the opportunity to strike up a better work/life balance and to remove the stresses and strains of their daily commute. Both have a major impact on your mental and physical well-being. More time may have been spent with families and friends, which they may not have had previously.
Its difficult to make an argument for one particular solution, which will suit every company and their staff.
It will be crucial for companies to engage with their staff and form a plan that suits their own business. As long as the company performance, service delivery and internal staff targets are being met, does it really matter if some staff are in the office or at home?
However, many internal ideas and issues have been raised and dealt with in the office, when making a cup of tea or bumping into a colleague during the day. That is clearly much harder to do when working from home.
The ‘new normal’ may be embracing flexibility and working together in finding new, productive ways of working, which can improve both work and personal lives.
If all businesses, regardless of their working from home plans, continue to support their staff as they have, it will be a massive step in bouncing back from some of the toughest months, many businesses have ever encountered.