Over the past year or so, one of the massive talking points has been working from home. Individuals that work in office jobs have been working from home since March 2020, and only recently have people slowly started going back in the office. It is clear that there have been massive and lasting changes to the way we work, and it is interesting seeing all the different viewpoints of what the future of work should look like. In this blog post I will give 4 views that I have when it comes to the future of work.
I want to make it clear that these are only my views. This is a topic that not everyone will agree on, so I understand that some of you will disagree with my views. That is totally fine. Furthermore, this article is mostly relevant for office jobs, and I am aware that there are some jobs that cannot be done from home.
It’s not one or the other when it comes to the choice between WFH or working in the office
A common question that I have seen being asked is “Do you prefer working from home or working in the office going forward?”. I do think that the answer people can give to this can be misleading, as it implies that it is a choice between WFH and working in the office. I know people that prefer working from home but would rather go in the office 1 or 2 days a week than work from home 5 days a week. On the other hand, I am someone that prefers working in the office but would be happy to work from home 1 day a week.
I do think that for the majority of people, they wouldn’t want to choose between working from home 5 days a week and working in the office 5 days a week. This is because the pros of working from home (such as no commute and more time spent with family and kids) also come with its cons (such as no face-to-face interaction with colleagues and a lack of separation between home and work life). Working from home 5 days a week means you lose the benefits of working in the office, and vice versa. From my experiences, many people want to have the benefits of working from home and working in the office, a mix of the two on a given week allows them to have that. Several factors will play a part when deciding precisely how individuals will split their time between the office and home. However, it’s important to realise that it’s not a case of choosing one or the other, and that a mix is optimal for most people.
Everyone’s situation is different so having flexibility when it comes to future ways of working is essential at a firm level
It is well understood that everyone’s situation is different, which will mean that working from home will suit some people more than others. People that have young kids and a comfortable work from home setup would find that working from home works well for them, as it allows them to spend more time with kids. On the other hand, people that live alone can find that working from home can make them feel quite isolated. Furthermore, some people find that working from home helps their wellbeing, and others find that working in the office helps their wellbeing. I therefore think that one of the most important things for firms to consider is that any proposal for future ways of working needs to be flexible, to allow employees to do what works best for their own situation. I do feel that a flexible way of working is a great way to support employee wellbeing, and firms have a great chance to show that they genuinely care about the wellbeing of their employees.
Hybrid working will take a lot of time for firms to get used to
A lot of companies are talking about implementing hybrid working going forward. I think this is a great idea, as it allows employees to have access to the benefits from both home working and office working. However, I do think it will take a lot of time before hybrid working will work effectively for firms. One reason is because for the vast majority of firms (there are some exceptions to this!), hybrid working was never really part of their culture pre-pandemic. For a lot of firms prior to the pandemic, the default for most employees was to go in the office 4/5 days a week with maybe the odd day from home if things came up. During the pandemic, effectively everyone barring key workers were working from home full time. So most employees and firms have gone from experiencing working in the office full time to working from home full time, and hence implementing a mix between the two is unknown territory. Therefore, embedding hybrid working as part of a firm’s culture is something that will need time and experimentation, and it won’t be surprised if firms don’t get it right first time.
Employees need to strike a balance in doing what’s best for the team and what’s best for themselves
I think that this is a really important point to bring up. A lot of individuals have really enjoyed working from home over the past year or so, and want to carry on working from home going forward. That is fine if it isn’t of detriment to other members of your team. However, the issue arises where people working from home full time is of detriment to the team, and there are lots of situations where this can be the case. Examples include if the team want to have a face to face meeting, or if the person working from home full time has responsibility when it comes to managing and mentoring more junior members of the team. I did say in my second point that this is a good chance for employee wellbeing to be taken seriously, and therefore individuals should have a degree of flexibility when it comes to doing what it best for their wellbeing. It is however important to remember that most employees are part of a team, and therefore they need to think about doing what’s good for the team rather than purely thinking about themselves. Therefore, finding a balance between what’s best for the individual and the team is really important, which is a message that firms should get across strongly in my opinion.