It has started to happen. A resounding call for “returning to the office”. How it’s pitched is varying across sectors. Some have insisted on an immediate return; others are taking it slowly, listening to their staff. All of this is happening with a backdrop of a global, 4-day a week study. Just this week, the 10th UK organisation signed up to trailing this working pattern, with no loss of pay. So, we all know “back to the office” (or not) is THE hot topic for HR, recruiters and management. Whichever space you fall into, it’s something that we need to ask ourselves. How do you want hybrid work to work?
In March 2020 millions of workers across the globe were forced to work remotely almost overnight. Home Office space was crafted in the most ingenious ways, alongside places for us to “home-school”. Now, nearly two years on we have seen variations of working practises and patterns, under the cloud of ever-changing and often confusing restrictions.
With the lifting of the work from home order in England from 27th January 2022, many organisations are inviting their staff back into the office. How strong that “suggestion” is varying; I am still hopeful that the majority are acknowledging the amazing work their staff have managed during these circumstances, and are taking the opportunity to create a hybrid office of the future.
There is no doubt that the fourth industrial revolution has accelerated because of the impact of the pandemic. Originally futurists believed we were set to transform into this new stage by 2030. But here we are in 2022, interconnected in a way many had only hoped to be.
What does this mean for 2022 and beyond for work?
We all must acknowledge that, like our experience of remote learning, working at home during a pandemic is not a true experience of remote working or hybrid offices. Now the world is opening up again, we can make moves to reinvent what hybrid or agile working looks like paying attention to what worked and adjusting to what has been shown to have advantages for productivity, wellbeing and skills attraction.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Some businesses are leaning HARD to bring their staff back full-time, seemingly having amnesia when it comes to their experiences over their virtual work. This is a deep-seated cultural issue, and if I’m honest, there is very little I can do or say to convince them of an alternative. If a cross-sector, global experience can’t convince them, this blog won’t. If that is your situation, then maybe it’s time you look for forward-thinking organisations that have adjusted and listened. Luckily you may know a career coach to help! However, if you are part of an organisation open to change and appreciate a collaboration to move forward in this new era, then read on.
What do people want and need right now?
I’m lucky to be in the position to hear first-hand about people’s balance and career wishes. Throughout lockdown and the pandemic, I’ve been coaching parents through these tricky times, so wanted to share today what I’ve been saying to them about this very subject. Here are four questions to ask yourself about hybrid working
Which parts of your schedule do you want to keep?
Over the last two years, many of my clients have become parents or expanded their families, and their children have grown to attend nursery, school or college. They have dealt with bubble closures, isolation and missed exams. You may now be into the routine of school runs and lunchtime strolls. Consider how all these things impact your well-being and productivity. What do you want to, and NEED to, keep within your day?
What is the office for?
Let’s reconsider the point of an office. If you are asked to travel to be in the same place as your colleagues, then make sure you can take advantage of that face-to-face collaboration. Can it be for training or ideas generation? Make it count. Don’t forget, you have demonstrated your productivity, working remotely, or agilely, through outcomes. Your work is the proof of your capability, not the time you spend at a desk or the time you work.
What about making it formal?
All of your employment law rights, including the right to request flexible working (where a change of location can be one option), still stand. You have, potentially, nearly two years of evidence and working conditions to show how this can work.
What works for you?
There are many offices that have gone totally remote, which isn’t always an option for everyone. Issues including lack of space and social isolation mean that not everyone wants to work remotely. With things slowly and steadily reopening, now is the time to consider your version of hybrid working. Can find a local co-working space or cafe to give you the change of scenery and interaction you need? Or do you want to be back in the office for key projects with clear objectives?
As I’ve said before, most of us have never stopped working during the past two years, so we aren’t returning to work, but it may be time to return to the office. To make sure this can work for you, start by understanding what you need to have a healthy and productive working life and start the conversation to create a career to enjoy. Hopefully, it will continue with an organisation that appreciates the work you do, rather than the place it is completed in. But if it doesn’t, there are an ever-growing number of organisations that will consider work as an action, not a place!
Clara will be leading a workshop on inclusive recruitment at our new conference – From Here to Diversity. Learn more and register here.
This was originally published on The Balance Collectives website, click here to see.