With the slow easing of Coronavirus restrictions, you may wonder whether we will ever return to a normal life or if there will be some kind of permanent change to the way we work. There have been two areas that have regularly been coming up over the last 15 months. The first whether we can travel within our home country (if we’re allowed to leave home at all) or go abroad. The second, and the one that I will be focusing on in this post, is the way people work. Is ‘work’ what we do, or a place where we go?
At the start of the pandemic there were a lot people known as key workers (including me) that simply couldn’t work from home – people who work in NHS, other public service workers and retail workers particularly those that in essential retail.
Then there were people in jobs who couldn’t go to their offices and had to work from home. There had to be a big switch in the way people work from home. The times of having regular meetings in an office or even a bar were long gone and then people began networking, and even socialising, using popular applications such as Zoom.
Nearing Freedom Day
With vaccinations going well in the UK but cases going up, there is a wonder when and if a ‘Freedom Day’ will come which would see the end of Social Distancing, and wearing face masks. Indeed in the last post which I wrote ‘The New Normal’ freedom day was scheduled for Monday 21st June.
The date has passed and has now been rescheduled to Monday 19th July. There is some hope it could be earlier to 5th, although personally I think this is a bit optimistic.
Now come the question, whether office workers should go back to the office to a usual Monday-Friday routine, or whether they can work from home either on a full or part time basis.
The Office Life
I will be listing on the advantages and disadvantages of working from home rather than in the office. A lot I’ve mentioned is based on my personal and family experience especially my Mum who worked in office environment all of her career and a much of that time in London.
Advantages Of Working From Home
The thing I would put top of the list is the travel. Where ever you travelled to and what kind of transport you use, you will be saving money. The only exceptions would be if you’re walking or cycling, where any cost will be minimal.
Should you be going on a bus, car or a train there will be costs and possible traffic delay to make a bad day even worse and set stress levels to a new high. Commuting can add hours to each end of the day and as for costs – well, I’ve just looked up Bedford to London season tickets on the train, and with parking a basic rate taxpayer would need to earn nearly £10,000 just to go to work – for a higher rate taxpayer it’s more like £12,000! Then add tube fares and a minimum commute, if you’re lucky in where you work in London, of two hours a day. And that’s when the trains aren’t broken.
Better Food and Drink
When you work on the go, it can be easy to fall into bad habits and one of the main ones is how we look after ourselves in what we eat and drink. In a previous employment, working in retail park you sometimes get entertained when competing sandwich vans that at war with each other and saying how their service is better than the other.
Plus working in the office can be a challenge even if there’s an office kitchen when all you can seem to find is a loaf of bread, butter, sugar, tea bags and a jar of some coffee granules.
Whilst working from home you can eat your own food at your own cost and make yourself that cup of coffee which you are used to only at weekends. Also you can control your food choices leading to a healthier diet all round. It’s also much cheaper too.
Being More Productive
Working at home can be very useful as you can mainly set your own terms and rules. You can wear what you like, not worry too much about how your office computer will perform, not been too distracted and keep focused by listening to your own music.
You’re not having to listen to that radio station that put on that song repeatably every 3 hours. You can set your own playlist to help you focus on that job in hand. Also you can go with your body clock – some people are very productive first thing and then tail off, others prefer a later start and finish.
Disadvantages Of Working From Home
Lack Of Networking Opportunities
The Internet can be wonderful place where there are many opportunities to meet people, and professionally there is no difference using popular Social Media platforms such as LinkedIn to make connections and networking.
However sometimes face to face is the best way. Working from home will be not too much of a disadvantages for seasoned professionals but those starting off either through apprenticeships or a graduate scheme will find it harder to gain that useful experience from their experienced peers. You’ll also miss the relationship building over Line of Duty or the football which can make the office day go faster.
Love them or hate them, IT Support can be that saviour when things go wrong with technology whether it’s a problem with emails, the printer cartridge needs changing or you accidentally spill your coffee on the keyboard!
Plus because they are employed by the business, it’s their job to keep the IT Systems going and it’s no cost to you. If you have these problems at home, it can be your responsibility to get them fixed which means finding how to achieve this or finding an IT company to fix it at a cost plus no guarantee that your employers will cover you with expenses.
Whilst working from home can be great sometimes other things or people can come up that can distract your work. Starting with children, who have also had to learn from home during the pandemic – is where you are not only an employee but a teacher too. There are other challenges that parents may have from children such as sibling rivalry or wanting stuff, always at the most crucial time. However this can make for very amusing viral videos.
There are also can be distractions that pets supply. Whilst Dogs will need their regular walks and food, from my Mum’s experience, Cats are the real villains in the piece.
These include meowing over the phone, trying to appear in virtual meetings and walking over the laptop when they are hungry. The last thing mentioned happened to my Mum, many times!
Recommended Next Steps
So far we’ve discussed the experiences of office life, the advantages and disadvantages of working from home and how the office world has had to be adjusted due to the pandemic.
Now for the analysis, what are the next steps?
This is something that doesn’t affect me personally I’m still working as a key worker and working on my web design from my flat, which is very comfortable! This though will affect thousands of workers and my opinion here is based on the effectiveness of home work, networking and the impact on mental health, which seems to be put on the back burner throughout the pandemic.
I feel there won’t be an immediate return to a 5 day office work, to how things used to be and if that returns, probably 12-18 months from now will be the earliest we will see it.
Instead a Flexi work approach could be the best way forward for employees who are working 3-5 days for the company. The majority of those days should be spent at home which will eventually help the coronavirus data especially for those young workers who haven’t had their first jab or not yet been double jabbed (the majority of uk should have this in the Autumn).
The other days should be used in the office which will help the company focus on their main objectives and targets for the business. This will improve employees’ mental health as it gives them the opportunity to see their colleagues in person plus there will be more face to face networking opportunities which should give young people the chance to benefit and shine in their careers. You always learn from your colleagues even if all you learn is how not to do it!