“We don’t want to go back to our offices” is an explicit argument, sometimes, or it can be understood in a normal conversation about Covid19 and our jobs. Those who have been working from home, knowledge workers, white collars workers … They do not know what they want but they have great doubts and preventions to return to the workplaces in person. The end of the “State of Emergency” in Spain, established that the preferential nature of remote work over face-to-face work lasted until September 21, and now, in a context of uncertainty, we have to make two returns, back to classes and back to jobs. Everything is going uphill.
If we are fine like this…
During these months we have been reading hundreds of articles and verifying that Working From Home is possible: We are capable of achieving it technologically, we have done it in record time, we take-off all the work, just as if we were in the office, we reconcile more and better, we do not dedicate time to commuting, the meetings are shorter and we deal with the issues we had planned, we are even more punctual, we are really in touch with everyone, we are improving our digital skills, we… You can add more reasons.
On September 21, many people will have been working from home for six and a half months. We have all said to ourselves, a lot of good news was necessary, that working from home was working. Six and a half months working from home generates many habits, many routines, a lot of inertia. With September 21 being the end of the summer, we are faced with more than the “post-vacation effect.” The new course, new “subjects”, maybe a “new school” is going to generate doubts and anxiety from when we were children at this time of year.
Anthony Villis explained that valuable people can leave our company if we don’t do anything to go back to the office in a different way. I think the identification of groups that he has made from the reflections we have made these months makes a lot of sense:
- People who have realised there’s a world outside of work.
- People who have realised they don’t need so much money.
- People who have realised that the working from home lifestyle works for them.
- May be you, the reader, can find more reasons not to return to the office, at least as you did until a few months ago.
There are “cons”
In the same way that there are pros in favor of remote work, there are also cons. We can agree that the much-needed socialization, team collaboration, and creativity essential for innovation must be especially cared for in this environment. For example, “someone said that the WFH will be for people who want a job, offices for people who want a career”. A lack of social interaction for younger employees is a real problem, and, may be, Beate Oera said, their careers and professional development depend on being able to spend time with colleagues.
But we have to return
There are objective reasons to be solved by the companies and with very careful communication:
- The safety of our workplace in terms of health.
- Social distances with our colleagues, in our workplace, at the entrances, in meetings …
- Public transport must observe criteria of capacity and hygiene.
It may be that we need a balance of work in the office and work at home, a better conciliation, spending less time going to our workplace, greater productivity relying on all digital tools … It can be and we will. But what we need now is to get our society up and running while adequately coping with Covid19. There is uncertainty about tomorrow; about the health and safety of our families, friends, and loved ones; and about our ability to live the lives we love.
As McKinsey & Company says “nobody wants to have to make this choice (lives or livelihoods) and we need to do everything possible to find solutions”.Safeguarding our lives and our livelihoods: The imperative of our time. We must solve for the virus and the economy. It starts with battling the virus.
Frontline vs working from home?
There are people physically working in their jobs, the so-called “front line workers”, also those who have been incorporated to ensure the productivity of their organization and the teachers who will join in a few days. Could it be that the Covid19 is dividing our society? COVID-19 is dividing our culture: frontline vs working from home. Some people on the frontline may feel resentment toward those working from home. And what could the unemployed and those on temporary employment files (ERTE) be thinking?
So, what can we do now? What kinds of changes do we have to accelerate?
- We must ensure and adequately communicate a safe and healthy work environment. Time and again, constantly. And paying attention to mental health. Develop a mentally healthy workplace.
- We have to evaluate constantly in our companies how we are working and reorienting our way of managing. For example: Evaluating the 5 Dimensions of Work from Home Success: Trust, Creativity, Collaboration, Social Connection and Psychological Safety.
- If we work remotely, because we will do it, reduce physical and operational distances to improve performance, motivation and collaboration. Literature around remote-working usually revolves around three kinds of distances that have to be reckoned with: Physical (place and time), Operational (team sizes, bandwidth, skill levels) and Affinity (softer, more behavioral factors like trust, values, co-operation and reciprocity).Large Spanish companies reveal the secret of remote work.
- Physical distancing, is a significant part of the strategy to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Behavioural science give us tools to restructure the environment to ensure people don’t get too close to one another. Physical Distancing. A Behavioural Science Toolkit to Aid Physical Distancing and People Movement in a Covid-19 World. Another example, we will return to eating in restaurant dining rooms as soon as we feel safe to do so, may be not now, because of the atmosphere of anxious consumers, and continuing uncertainty. Restaurant operators have to become more agile and resilient.
- Our offices are not the way they used to be. They’ve changed. Your office job will never be the same–here’s what to expect from Life after lockdown. The offices we left are not going to be the offices we return to.