I think one of the biggest reasons people have for going back to the office is face to face communication.
There is this idea that instead of continuing to embrace and further develop what was created from having to work from home, we should regress back to the way things were.
But I think there’s something to be said about those that choose to embrace change and move forward.
Pre-pandemic wasn’t necessarily better it was just what we were used to. And right now as we move forward, we have the opportunity to consider what works well and embrace something new.
Around 18 months ago, the idea of working from home full-time was not an option for many people. However, last year it became our reality. Suddenly we had to adjust to new ways of working. We had to make space at home to work in the same way or as close to how we would in the office.
The world didn’t stop, we showed that it could in fact be done. But it happened because we were forced to rather than companies allowing it or wanting it to happen.
And now, as we get closer to getting ‘back to normal’, a lot of companies want the traditional ways of the 9-5 to return. However, many employees have adjusted to the new way of life and don’t want to go back.
They now save time and money spent on their journeys into work, are less likely to buy lunch, have more flexibility over how they spend their day and more.
For others, working from home may have brought less routine, more distractions, less productivity and a loss of culture/community.
I don’t think it’s a case of picking working from home or from the office but instead acknowledging that both options can work well and then finding a new way.
We don’t need to just go back to the way things were but we don’t need to totally abandon the office.
It’s getting to that time of year when the Out of office goes on with an automatic reply that goes something like:
‘ Hi, I am currently on leave until 4th January and will respond upon my return. If urgent please contact email@example.com in my absence.’
However, for daily blogging there is no break or time off unless posts are pre-written in advance.
And sometimes that can be challenging when you want time to plan what direction to take things in the future or just want to take a break.
There is no out of office for daily blogging and once you start you commit to never being able to take time off.
It can feel daunting but it isn’t all bad because there is so much to gain from committing to a writing practice every single day.
For a large group of people they’ve spent most at least 4 months of the year working from home. They’ve had to adjust and adapt to a new environment whilst still maintaining the same work output that would be delivered in the office.
Despite the difficulties I think everyone gains something working from home. For some people those gains actually outweigh the losses.
The main thing is that you have more control over how you spend your time.
It could be starting early and finishing early or starting and finishing late.
Spending your morning working on personal projects.
Organising your work time to give you a few hours of leisure in the late morning to early afternoon.
Perhaps it’s being able to dress however you want and cook meals instead of just buying something or heating something up in the microwave.
Maybe, you’ve gained more time to spend with the people you love because you no longer have to commute.
As much as it might be difficult, challenging and inconvenient to work from home, it’s worth acknowledging the good bits.
I’ve recently had a few conversations about going back to work and what that will look like.
For some that worked in offices they were able to continue at home whilst for others things grounded to a halt and have remained so for the past couple of months.
From the way things look, it appears that even though things are starting to open up again, we will not be going to back to the normal that we once knew.
With social distancing set to become our new way of living, the office environment can no longer remain the same.
Lunch – The eating space can no longer be a social space used to catch up and get away from your desk. Tables and chairs would need to be re-organised to ensure social distancing remains. It’ll probably be more convenient to just eat at your desk.
Meetings – In the past few months all meetings have been held over video or changed to a phone call, I think this will remain. Travelling for client meetings will no longer be a priority, unless perhaps done so by car. Team meetings work well whilst we’re all at home but this will not translate well into a socially distanced office. We’ll need to think about how we can have group discussions in a private place whilst still maintaining distance.
Hot-desking – Something that was implemented as the new way of working and that marked a rise in the flexibility of the 9-5 is now at risk of being eradicated. We’ll still have the flexibility in work hours but the space we work in will stay the same, the less stuff shared the better.
As you can see, it’ll be a challenge to maintain any sort of normal office environment with social-distancing. An office, like many other work spaces is built on people coming together.
What does this change mean for the future of working and how can we adapt to ensure we’re working in spaces that meet our needs both individually and collectively?
A while from now we’ll be living in a post pandemic world. Companies and businesses will have to make decisions about the way they will choose to work moving forward.
Presentations, discussions, conversations and updates are all being done remotely when normally they’d have required meetings.
Those meetings may have involved: a journey to another city by car or train, a large group when only a small few were needed or time wasted because it could have easily been a 10 minute conversation over the phone.
But when the world goes back to the office, back to the normal 9 to 5 lifestyle, I have no doubt that there will still be unnecessary meetings.
And so a question worth pondering on is, ‘Why do we meet when we know we don’t need to?’
Turns out that the 9-5 isn’t as necessary as it once was.
With everything going on in the world meetings are becoming emails or being done by video, travel has come to a halt and working from home may become the non-optional office alternative.
Despite the unfortunate situation that has caused things to change, I can’t help but notice that there is something to learn.
As someone that works in an office less than 50% of what I do requires me to be in the building or to interact with my co-workers.
But I can imagine a time when people used typewriters or even computers that you couldn’t physically take home. Back then, being in your office was necessary to undertake your work.
These days all you need is a laptop and you can use that anywhere.
I’m not championing no longer having an office at all. However, I do think it is worth exploring how often you actually need to be in the company office and the purpose that it serves.
For many it’s the social aspect of going to the kitchen for tea and a catch up with a work pal, it’s meeting people when you’re new to the city, it’s having a space to work for those with limited room at home or those wanting to maintain separation between work and life.
Having an office to go to isn’t necessary for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week but it does come with benefits.
It introduces us to new people, gives us a routine and gives us the opportunity to be part of a culture.
You might feel frustrated but all is not lost.
In a previous post I wrote about job satisfaction and I thought it might be useful to delve into some practical tips. It’s all good and well telling someone what to do but it’s sometimes helpful to tell them how.
So, let’s say you work in an office and your manager is not much help with anything that you need help with. It could be about the work you do or maybe even career progression etc.
What do you do?
It probably gets frustrating but it’s always useful to remember that you always have options.
First up, ask for what you want/need?
Ask confidently, ask a second time.
Don’t be afraid to call people out (politely) when they don’t follow through after assuring you that they’d do xyz.
If you feel like it’s not working, ask someone else.
Chances are even though a manager is their as a main point of call, there’ll be someone else that can help you and someone else that will.
Lastly don’t expect too much from people.
Yes, ask for help when you need it but don’t be reliant on others to drive your ship, they have their own stuff to do too.
Things get much more interesting if we think of ourselves as actors.
Something I’ve learnt is that people probably aren’t going to go above and beyond for you. But if you practice confidence and you make yourself visible you’re more likely to get your needs met.
It’s like actors in a show. The main character will always get more attention than the one that just plays a minor role. And in the workplace you get to choose which role you play.
Of course it’s not easy putting yourself in the main role whereas it’s as easy as cherry pie to take the role of a background character.
When you play in the background there’s little expectation, you don’t get much attention and if you don’t show up nobody cares.
So, what happens when the background character wants more responsibility and the opportunity to show up and actually do something that matters, like a main character.
Turns out you can’t have it both ways.
They’re both important.
We live in a society where it’s not uncommon to find people almost competing about who works the hardest.
Working a 9to5.
Working a 9to5 then a passion project 5to9.
Staying in the office till late.
Being self employed and working 7 days a week.
Coming into the office at the weekend.
We hear about working hard all the time but we rarely hear about play. There’s emphasis on resting from the work. But I’m a big believer in work and play.
I don’t believe in working for the weekend as though those 2 days are your reward for slaving away for the 5 days prior.
My ideas on work and play aren’t about a work life balance but more about just enjoying life as a whole.
So yes, meet your deadlines, impress the clients and do great work but also enjoy it.