If you’ve had to pop into the office at any point during lockdown, you’ll be familiar with the eeriness of an office building devoid of the people it’s supposed to service. The darkened rooms, empty meeting spaces, silent sales floors. No ringing phones, no tapping of keyboards. No office banter, no smells of freshly brewed coffee or the Friday bacon-sandwich run.
It’s like time stood still in these unoccupied spaces – just waiting for the return of the people who belong there.
The incredible job the teams of scientists at Pfizer and AstraZeneca have done with their record-breaking vaccine development, and the efficiency of our awesome NHS at rolling it out to the adult population, has meant that a return to the office has been possible for many already. As lockdown restrictions and guidance continue to relax, more people are returning by the day.
The Intec Select office are starting to relax a bit and are now giving our staff the option to come into the office or continue to work from home if they feel safer. We’ve found that most days we’re now at about 70% in the office on average. Most people are now very much over working from home, miss the office environment and are eager to return. That’s not to say that the readjustment to working full-time in the office is without its challenges.
The new old normal
Although many of us struggled to adjust to remote working at first, it’s amazing how quickly it became the new normal. Surprisingly more than half of us discovered we actually didn’t really want to go back to the office when this was all over. But, it seems that initial predictions that home working was to become the norm were a bit premature. Most employers envisage at least partial return to the office for most employees, and many employees changed their tune about home working once they’d seen enough of their own four walls.
Make yourself at home
Letting go of creature comforts is going to be one of the hardest aspects of home working to let go. Many of us will find office attire a bit of a shock after months of loungewear and slippers, and not being able to control your own working environment will take some getting used to again. Most employers these days are keen to ensure that workspaces work for their employees, providing adjustable temperatures, lighting, good ventilation and places to escape if you need some peace and solitude, or space to break out. If you find something in the built environment gets in the way of you doing your job comfortably, most employers would rather you speak up than suffer in silence.
Manage your distractions
Many remote workers said they found it difficult to avoid the temptation of distractions at home. At least at home you were somewhat in control of your distractions (although the parents amongst us may disagree). For office-based interruptions and distractions, noise-cancelling headphones can help filter out environmental noise, but also are a signal to others that you are deep in concentration and not available for non-urgent discussions. They act as a subtle “do not disturb” signal – sadly too subtle for children.
Keep to your routine
No doubt by now you’ve mastered what works for you. You can retain whichever elements of your routine that you feel make you the most productive member of the team you can be. Whether it’s a lunchtime run or walk, or an earlier start and finish – if it works, keep it up.
One positive to come out of the pandemic is the constant and proactive communication that has been necessary to survive the enforced isolation. There’s been no room for miscommunication – documenting objectives and tasks is just as important in a bricks and mortar environment.
Ask for flexible working
Another positive to come out of the enforced remote working is that employers have found trust and comfort in knowing that productivity has not been compromised. Everyone is different and while some thrive in the buzz of an office environment, others have discovered they work best alone and without distractions.
Many neurodivergent individuals have found that the world is a much easier place to navigate without the sensory overload of a busy office – and you may find a new openness amongst leadership teams when it comes to hybrid or flexible working arrangements.
As a direct result of the pandemic, and having discovered that our people can work very effectively from home, we are changing the way we work and are happily introducing a flexible working policy for all. Going forward we will be allowing all employees to choose to work from home for 1 or 2 days a week depending on their role and the amount of in-office support they need. This new-found confidence and belief in the benefits of trusting staff to work from home seems to be a common theme as many of the businesses we deal with are making the same changes.
For many, returning to working (mostly) full time in the office is definitely going to be a big adjustment. The UK workforce has shown its resilience already. If we can cope with being stuck in a house for months on end, juggling homeschooling with full-time work whilst maintaining productivity, we can certainly cope with our colleagues and commutes again. Especially now the pub is open.
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