The pandemic has transformed the way we interact and engage with one another, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the workplace. Company culture has seen a significant shift since remote working was introduced, with those opportunities to connect within the office having to be replaced by virtual interaction. As employers begin to recognise the widespread reluctance to move back into the workplace, they may feel incentivised to optimise office spaces and company culture to replicate the security and flexibility that remote workers experienced at home, whilst retaining those valuable in-person social interactions.
The above has led many firms to consider the idea of a “hybrid” future – a combination of working from home and in the office. However, some companies are still hoping they can get their employees back into the workplace full time and questioning what they can do to ease the transition.
How Can Employers Help Their Employees Adjust to Office Life?
According to a YouGov Survey, 18% of people prefer to work from home all of the time while 39% of people prefer the idea of hybrid working. This demonstrates that whilst some individuals are eager to get back to their desks, many employees remain reluctant to go back into the office full-time. Originally, remote working was considered a sudden, stressful and temporary change. However, as people have become used to being at home, remote working has largely been a success – even for those companies that felt flexible working would not work.
The YouGov Survey also found that 28-30% of workers have considered relocating out of the city or country altogether, to avoid high -rent and commuting costs. This suggests that for many employees their priorities have shifted, and the desire to work remotely will largely remain post pandemic. Further, many individuals are still struggling with social anxieties exacerbated by COVID-19 and are remaining cautious about re-entering communal spaces, especially those that had to shield.
Many businesses have since wondered what tactics they might take internally to ensure that their employees return to work in a safe and comfortable manner. Employers may want to examine the following possibilities, among others:
Introducing cycle to work schemes or allowing employees to arrive at the office later to avoid rush hour could help alleviate anxiety concerning the safety of public transport.
Easing employees into the office by not doing full days, but suggesting they only come in for a meeting to get reacquainted with office surroundings.
Checking in with your employees more often and discussing how office life will work for them can help to decrease their anxieties.
The Importance of Hybrid Working and How It Can Have a Positive Impact on Both Staff and Employers
Hybrid working could help address people’s concerns about returning to the office full-time, but it also provides an opportunity for employers to reshape the workplace and improve company culture. Prior to COVID-19, many firms deemed getting the work done to a high standard and achieving good profits as their main priorities. However, since the pandemic and the rise of remote working, employers have had to monitor their employee’s well-being – both mentally and physically – more attentively.
For some people, working from home has resulted in them feeling isolated and overworked, with individuals craving the brief social interactions and moments of decompression the office space once provided. On the other hand, remote working has provided many people a much-needed break from the daily commute and enabled individuals to spend more time with family or friends. Employers have had to consider both positions when deciding how to reintroduce employees back into the workspace – like introducing flexible working.
Whilst many people might feel disconnected from their work community, there are still many advantages to flexible working which could encourage employers to adjust their policies to be more accessible and enjoyable:
Improves retention: Flexible schedules are one of the most important perks employees want from their employers.
Attracts top talent: By opening your search you could find first class workers who might only work on a flexible/part-time basis but will deliver exceptional work.
Increases productivity: Employees are judged on their outcomes rather than their behaviour in an ideal environment; they no longer have to ‘look busy' when the manager is there and instead set out to achieve their goals on their own time. Employees may gain confidence and self-motivation as a result of this.
Provides a cost-efficient and eco-friendly choice: Not only will less commuting save money but less people on public transport or driving to work will improve the environment and will result in a lower carbon footprint for both staff and employers.
How Has the Company Culture in Offices Been Affected Since Remote Working Was Introduced?
Whilst many people are reluctant to return to the office, 39% of people say they do not want to work from home entirely post-Covid. The most common reason for this opinion is that remote working eliminates the chance of spontaneous conversations, which often result in collaboration and innovation. Others argued that working from home is not appropriate for entry-level employees, as it is much easier to learn from their colleagues in-person.
Humans rely on a variety of social interactions to learn, grow and improve their cultural understanding. The workplace often provided an opportunity for these social exchanges to occur – whether it was with colleagues or with a local café worker. Working from home has meant individuals have been disconnected from these everyday social experiences, fundamentally changing the way we engage with people.
In the podcast "Do you miss the office - connection and community" Annie Bergeron alongside David Steinbach, Global Chief Investment Officer and co-head of investment management at real estate leader Hines, Dr. Pragya Agarwal, an award-winning behavioural scientist and Sylvain Fortier, Ivanhoe Cambridge’s Chief Investment and Innovation Officer, discuss how ‘the lack of shared space and shared experience [has] shifted how companies think about their culture’. Many employers are now considering ways they can change their office spaces to improve work quality and ‘make these spaces fit for everybody, where they can feel an acute sense of belonging’. As a society, we are becoming more aware of the fact that our surroundings have a huge impact on the way we work and collaborate with others. ‘For some people, home has been safety, away from these pressures of being in the office where they are being monitored, where they don’t have the childcare or flexibility that they have at home’. Yet, hybrid working can create this sense of work-life balance that still allows an employee to have a sense of flexibility while not resenting the idea of going into the office.