Following the Prime Minister’s recent statement, many people will now be returning to their place of work. His advice, that those who cannot work from home should consider returning to work (travelling by public transport if possible), marked a change in the lockdown regulations.
Gradually, lockdown will be eased and eventually the aim is for us all to return to work. But will that mean working as we worked BC – Before Coronavirus? For weeks, many of us have been able to continue working, basing ourselves at home, and staying connected via the internet. What lessons will we have learned from this and what will we take forward as we move towards the ‘new’ normal?
Working life post Coronavirus
It is clear that many workers will return to their place of work as before. For example, those in manufacturing, hospitality and healthcare cannot work at a distance. Indeed, throughout this pandemic, our many key workers – who make up 60-70% of our candidates – have been carrying on throughout; this includes our drivers, our health carers and many of our industrial workers.
But for the commercial sector, where work in the main is conducted at a desk in an office, there may be scope for change.
We have been asking business owners for their thoughts on how their working practices, environment, and attitudes have altered and we have had some interesting feedback.
Here is a comment from the owner of a marketing consultancy, who already used Zoom regularly. “I’ve been having meetings via Zoom for a couple of years because of my health so I know it works. I wouldn’t want to lose face to face contact altogether because I miss hugs and handshakes, but I certainly think it’s made us realise many meetings can be done more efficiently online.”
The director of a learning and development company commented: “No doubt we will be working much more flexibly and reducing the rather mad view that knowledge workers have to be at a desk in an office by 9am with an hour for lunch - the world has changed. This will, however, accelerate the change to electric vehicles - just ask yourself, if the price was about the same would you buy a noisy and polluting car again?”
And this comment from a solicitor, noting the beneficial impact Coronavirus has had on the planet. “Working from home can certainly save on carbon emissions. In the future if clients want to see me via Zoom etc, I’ll definitely do more online. It’s good for the environment and it saves a lot of extra time too.”
Indeed, saving time was another positive highlighted by businesses. The owner of a health and safety training company, now offering training online, commented: “The benefits to the client include cost and time. Virtual training will not be for everyone, but it is certainly an option I intend to continue to offer going forward.”
So saving time, and the planet are cited as positives. But what are the downsides?
Here’s a further comment from the marketing consultancy owner: “I would say that for a lot of young adults their living accommodation doesn’t make it easy for them to work at home - shared flats, tiny spaces with no room for a proper desk and workspace are OK for a few weeks (at a push) but not long-term.”
And the health and safety business owner also added that working from home would not be suitable for everyone. “Some will struggle with the lack of structure that the office/team environment provides. Therefore going forward, if we are to adopt more flexible working, leadership styles will need to adapt accordingly.”
Finally, this from the managing director of an insurance company, which suggests that working from home may not be a perfect solution.
“We are finding that, with everyone working from home with their work laptops, large office screens, and even office chairs, the work is being done and the clients’ needs are being met. But the collective reaction to the current arrangements is that everyone is looking forward to getting back to the office. Online group and individual meetings, whilst perhaps more efficient and allowing for less distractions/interruptions, seem to take away some of the attractions of the more collegiate office environment, where maybe the spontaneity of a quick chat with a colleague in real time and the greater ease of having a face to face communication are better for people’s sense of wellbeing, thus mental health?”
An excellent point. A working environment is not just about having the right desk, screen, chair and access to Zoom. Working is a social, team activity for most and being solely at home may lead to feelings of isolation and mental health concerns.
It is clear that there are pros and cons both to working from home and working from the office. Perhaps a balance is required. At 24-7 Staffing, when our offices in Chippenham, Salisbury and Bristol are once again open, we will certainly be looking at the best options to suit the needs of our clients, our candidates and, of course, our fantastic team.
In the meantime, recruitment continues. Clients have vacancies to fill in the driving, commercial, healthcare and industrial sectors and job-seekers are looking for new opportunities. Please get in touch with the team today to discuss your recruitment needs.