Not all staff want to be working from home - many seek the learning opportunities and social interaction of the workplace, writes Jimmy Bent


Although they only ended just over 12 months ago, thankfully Covid-related lockdowns feel like an unpleasant and distant memory. Their by-products, on the other hand, appear to be sticking around for the long haul. Of all the changes that impacted our working lives throughout the pandemic, the move to hybrid working would be the greatest.

Now that the threat of Covid appears to have been mitigated, if not conquered, how will our attitudes around hybrid working change, and should they?

Many companies we work with are starting to amend their working-from-home policies. In the last few months there has been a noticeable trend in the number of days people are required to be in the office increasing. Half the firms we work with have formalised their hybrid-working policies, with three to four in-office days a week being the norm. Less common is the ‘fully agile’ philosophy, with those practices taking this approach claiming it to be a success.

The issue, if there is one, lies in the disparity between what employers want and what employees, and job seekers, are looking for. Opinion is divided over how productive employees are when working-from-home; it has been reported that managers believe there is less productivity, while employees report being more productive.

despite all the press to the contrary, we have seen a rise in employees genuinely wanting to return to the office

But no one is ever going to admit to being less productive when working-from-home if that is their preferred arrangement, are they? So, if employers want to increase attendance, unless it can be quantified and demonstrated, productivity cannot be the argument for getting staff back into the office.

In contrast to what a lot of job seekers thought, companies were never that keen on hiring new people into fully remote positions, for obvious reasons. Induction and training is much more complicated when someone works remotely, and the level of trust required to allow an employee to work-from-home is yet to be established.

Junior employees also need mentoring and guidance, as well as instruction, which is much more complicated to provide if they – and their leaders – are not working in the same space. It is worth noting, however, that junior staff tend to be the lowest paid and if they are the only ones expected to be in the office full time, there are the associated costs of commuting and eating out, a fact that is often overlooked by employers.

That said, and despite all the press to the contrary, we have seen a rise in employees genuinely wanting to return to the office. After years of remote working, many have missed the social interactions and learning opportunities that happen by being present with their team.

A few drinks down the pub on a Friday doesn’t really cut it anymore

The loss of social interaction during the pandemic has highlighted the importance of human engagement which has made team building activities that promote employee engagement more important than ever. A few drinks down the pub on a Friday doesn’t really cut it anymore.

Companies are now running in-house events such as life drawing, cheese and wine evenings and office-wide celebrations of multifaith religious holidays. By far the most successful of all tactics, we have noticed, in getting people to come to the office more are the free lunches and breakfasts. It just goes to show that often it’s the simple things people appreciate!

Businesses have benefited from flexible working arrangements, by upgrading their infrastructure to support hybrid working and reducing their rental costs. Switching over to laptops to support flexible working enabling them to downsize square footage.

Gone are oversized reception areas and multiple meeting rooms and in their place are areas for collaboration, breakout zones and hot desks. Clever employers are adopting team-based schedules, rather than set days, meaning they can use workstations more efficiently, hiring more staff than the number of desks available.

Making the workspace feel more homely also makes people feel more comfortable and at ease

Post-pandemic, everyone’s appreciation of the value of mental wellbeing has increased massively, so some practices are ensuring there is at least one trained mental health first aider on their staff, or are offering in-house yoga, Pilates or meditation classes as a way for staff to de-stress.

Making the workspace feel more homely also makes people feel more comfortable and at ease. Animals and plants are proven to improve people’s mental health and many firms have welcomed the appearance of both in their workspaces.

Looking forward, however, as the number of new vacancies declines and the skills shortage potentially eases a little, we are seeing employers becoming more confident in dictating their terms than just going along with the status quo. Some may see this as an opportunity to get back to how things were, requiring people to come into the office full time, but a lot of the changes will be here to stay, and many will agree that the industry is better for it.