Back in the saddle: Is it time to head back to the office?
Dust off your blazers, people, it’s time to go back to school. We mean, back to work. With the government actively encouraging people to go back into the office and schools reopening for the first time in months, this September has a stronger ‘Back to School’ vibe than ever.
But while some of us are itching to get back to some semblance of normality, many people – and employers – are understandably nervous at the prospect of people piling into offices. Let’s explore some of the reasons why getting back into the office, safely, is a good idea.
Got your pencil case? Packed your rucksack? Then let’s begin.
‘This town is coming like a ghost town’
To borrow from The Specials’ song, there’s rising concern that Britain’s city centres could end up deserted. And it’s not just ministers pushing this bleak vision; the head of the CBI, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, has explicitly said city centres could turn into ghost towns if office workers don’t return.[i]
With around 40% of the UK’s workers operating remotely and 13% on furlough,[ii] a big chunk of the workforce is currently not going about their normal daily routine. And that has a huge impact on the economy.
While there’s no doubt that remote working has kept companies afloat, Fairbairn has argued that thousands of local businesses reliant on passing trade – think cafes, newsagents, sandwich shops, etc. – are suffering as a result. News that Pret A Manger is cutting nearly 2,900 workers, more than a third of its workforce, reinforces the importance of passing trade.
So getting people back into the office is good for the economy as a whole. Makes sense. But what about the counter argument that people shouldn’t feel pressured to risk their health in going back to work, just so they can buy coffees and sandwiches? That brings us to the role of employers, and how they can welcome their employees back safely.
That pretty much sums up the current attitude of employers, in our experience. Most are either already reopening offices, or putting plans in place to bring teams back gradually over the next few months.
Sure, offices may not be as full as they once were; major employers including Google, Twitter, Facebook, HSBC and NatWest have said they’ll either allow employees to continue working from home into 2021, or allow more flexible working going forward. No doubt we’ll see a much greater blend of remote working and office working from now on, as both employers and employees rethink work–life balance.
But bringing people back into the office – where possible and always in a safe, supportive way – does offer clear benefits for employers. Fostering team spirit, uniting people behind core strategic goals, building relationships, all are easier to do in person than over a Zoom call, no matter how fancy your Zoom background! Then there’s the issue of onboarding new hires. It can be done remotely, but it’s definitely not ideal.
This means it’s vital employers can bring back their office-based employees while safeguarding their health and wellbeing. Introducing measures like deep cleaning, additional handwashing/sanitising stations and physical distancing between desks will help to not only keep employees safe, but also boost their confidence in returning to work. Good communication will also be key here.
Benefits for employees, too
Many of us have relished working from home for a while. No commute. Not having to wait to use the microwave at lunchtime. Endless stretchy clothing. Bliss…
Or is it? For many people, the main lesson they took away from lockdown (apart from never have fewer than 10 loo rolls in the house at any one time) is they’re not particularly suited to home working. From a career, productivity and mental health perspective, they’d much rather be around their coworkers, and maintain a clearer separation between work life and home life. After all, working where you live (and living where you work) is hard. Rolling out of bed and heading straight for your laptop may sound great, but the reality is your work is always there. In your bedroom, lounge, dining room, or wherever.
Ultimately, for many businesses, we’re probably looking at a transition period – a time when teams head back into the office gradually. But there are clear benefits to getting people back into offices where possible, for the economy, for employers and for employees.
As a business we’ve safely and successfully brought our workforce back to all of our offices globally and it’s greatly benefited our employees and our businesses as a whole. So if you’re looking to take the next step in your sales/recruitment career, with a company that supports and invests in you, then look no further. With offices in Reading, London, Manchester, Frankfurt, Austin (TX) and New York, simply get in touch to find out what a career at Roc Search would look like for you.
[i] Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53925917
[ii] Source: https://www.ft.com/content/ac66a7ba-ba32-411f-a7fb-3ee0dde0d1c2