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Why it’s okay to want your staff back in the office image

Why it’s okay to want your staff back in the office

Blogs, Knowledge Centre /

With so many companies around the world shouting their new flexible working policies from the rooftops and others proudly declaring 100% remote teams that will no longer use an office as basecamp, there’s a great deal of pressure on those employers on the other side of the fence who don’t feel that those routes would be right for them.

The past few weeks, since UK restrictions started their gradual lifting, the media has been full of articles about going back to work. Mostly, about world-leading companies and global brands who are adopting more flexible ways of working post-pandemic – moves that will almost certainly influence the population of small and medium-sized businesses who look up to them as trailblazers.

Many companies are adopting a blended or hybrid approach to working, whereby employees work a portion of the week in the office and the rest from home or another remote location of their choosing. Some companies have even ditched the office environment entirely, choosing to operate fully remote teams, a move that has both positive and negative consequences.

In this article, we’re here to let those business owners and employers who don’t feel that things like fully remote working, blended/hybrid working, or working from home will be to the benefit of their business or its workforce.

We’re here to say that it’s okay to want your teams back in the office if you feel that it’s in everybody’s best interests, and here are a few perfectly valid reasons why including: 

  • Departmental nuances leading to feelings of unfair treatment
  • Employees preferring to be in an office environment
  • The benefits of human interaction and in-person collaboration

Now, let’s look at each of these a little more closely…

The benefits of bringing staff back to work:

Remote working might not lend itself to your industry

A body of research published by the British Chambers of Commerce revealed significant differences from sector to sector when it came to remote working:

Almost 80% of B2B businesses like finance and law were in a position to offer working from home throughout the pandemic, in comparison to just 61% of manufacturers and 54% of B2C companies like hospitality and retail. 

So, for those companies that have staff carrying out roles that can be done from anywhere in the world (e.g. marketing) remote working is a realistic and positive option. However, for the likes of manufacturers who need to operate machinery in order to do their jobs, remote and/or home working just isn’t an option.

In companies where there is a mix of departments or teams, some that could do their jobs remotely and some which couldn’t, there might be issues around employees who can’t work from home feeling unfairly treated and a resulting dip in morale.

This would give light to a classic you-can’t-please-everyone dilemma and for some, the best solution would be to stick to how things were before to avoid any upset or tension across teams.

Is it even what your employees want? 

Just because something hits the news headlines as a trend or a bandwagon that many others are hopping on board, doesn’t mean it’s something you’re obliged to engage with.

At this point in time (and who knows, this could change down the road), permitting remote working isn’t required by law so it isn’t something employers should feel backed into. If you feel that any form of remote working would negatively impact the wellbeing, safety, and/or performance of your staff, it’s okay to leave it off the table for now.

Business owners and employers certainly shouldn’t feel obliged to implement any spectrum of remote working because they feel they should be seen to be doing so either. Ask your employees if it’s something they even want – you might be surprised to hear what they have to say.

A survey of workers carried out by Totem found that almost half (49%) of employees aged 18-24 wanted to return to the office full-time. Plus, 80% of those in the same age bracket said they’d prefer to onboard in an office environment, as opposed to remotely. 

Of course, this is just one perspective from one piece of research. For every employee that a business has, there are that many perspectives to take into consideration. It’s a tricky balancing act that can be tough to get right, especially when there might be other employees or teams who feel just as strongly the opposite way.

You’ve got wider factors relating to personal lives and socio-economic situations also coming into play here, adding an additional layer of complexity. For example:

Totem’s findings revealed that almost half (48%) of single respondents would prefer to work full time in the office.

The best advice we can give you here is: don’t assume – speak to your staff, find out what it is they want and don’t try to shoehorn your specific business and its requirements into a model being peddled by the media. It’s all about what is going to get the best out of your workforce in terms of health, happiness, and performance.

People Are Joy

One of the most rational reasons to want to encourage staff back into the office is because of the powerful connection and communication that face-to-face human interaction allows.

In our blog post about why the workplace is more than just a commute destination, we discuss how in-person interaction boosts mental wellbeing, lifts company morale, catalyses idea-sharing, increases individual confidence, and bolsters more efficient teamwork.

Video meetings and conferencing technology are undoubtedly invaluable in merging dispersed teams and supporting diverse forms of collaboration but you really can’t beat the benefits of body language, eye contact and face-to-face conversation.

Have you seen our #PeopleAreJoy video yet? Watch now >

But be open to the benefits of blended learning too

With all of that said, we do want to stress here just how important it is to at least consider the benefits of a blended or hybrid approach to working life.

In a recent survey that we ran over on our LinkedIn page, we found that 77% of people feel more engaged as a result of blended working and/or full-time home working.

In addition, a survey carried out by Barnett Waddingham found that a third of UK employees could be promoted to go looking for a new job if they weren’t allowed choice around where they worked – be that in the office or at home.

These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg in proving that the working landscape has morphed into something far more malleable in comparison to this time two years ago and that many employees will now have refreshed desires for where, how, and when they work.

So, as we’ve demonstrated above, there are some valid reasons why it might not be right for your business but it certainly shouldn’t be something you rule out – quite possibly to the detriment of your business and its workforce – due to factors like fear of the unknown, unwillingness to embrace change, or perceived lack of control.

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