Think back to March this year. Covid is taking hold across the world and we entered a nationwide lockdown. Suddenly; no more socialising! No leaving the house unless for exercise. Also, no more commuting and working in the office.
Fast forward 7 months. Boris sets his 3 tier system for regional specific rules in UK and working from home is the new normal.
Some may be working once or twice a week in the office or doing a rotation system. Others haven’t seen their office for ¾ of the year.
Having spoken to hundreds of candidates over the last 6 months, it seems the community is somewhat divided on the enjoyment of WFH.
You have people who are completely fed up with looking at the same 4 walls every day, and others who can breeze through the day; no packed London tube with pungent armpits in your face whilst you fight to get a seat.
Despite working in the office, from a coffee shop, or your bedroom - your company probably *still* has that fancy office space! After paying the employees, it could be the biggest expenditure in the business. Will that continue to be sustainable if 50-75% of your workforce aren't going to use it?
Personally, I would really like to see corporate offices transferred to a WeWork style environment, and rather than shelling out on average £72.50/Sq Ft in The City (sign-up wall), use that money to improve employees WFH environment. Kit them out with a new monitor, a decent desk, or a coffee machine (more on that to come later…)
How will this affect new starters and training employees?
I have real world experience of this; when I joined Techruiter a month ago. We invest so heavily into training and coaching new starters on Software Engineering that if I wasn’t in the office asking questions, having the training, exploring ideas, drawing diagrams on whiteboards, it would have been virtually impossible for me to get up to speed and learn.
Whilst Zoom, Teams, Skype has helped keep everyone connected, I think most people would agree meeting and working with a team face to face is a very different experience compared to that of a laptop screen.
I fear that in the near future, you will work with people for years before even seeing the whites of their eyes in person.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
This is the most important question of my whole blog post: How do you check on people's mental health when they are away from you?
For 3 and a half months, I was on furlough with my previous employer and I know friends and colleagues thought I was having an amazing time sitting at home watching Netflix earning 80% of my salary. The reality is the complete opposite. I felt useless, I couldn’t contribute to my team, business and wider economy and thoughts such as redundancy, money issues etc all happened on a daily basis.
If you colleagues and employees aren’t in front of you and you can see someone’s mood, I fear wellbeing might slip down the priority list and just get shoved into a ‘tick-box’ exercise where a 10 second “how are you” call/email is sent and then forgotten about until the next month.
Who pays for the coffee when you work from home? For people like me who can't function without 5 cups of caffeine a day, who pays for the coffee?
So, I am being particularly obtuse and it is a trivial question given we are currently being gripped by a once in a century pandemic but I do think it relevant, given all of the stats seem to be pointing to a deep reduction in office based work.
The Dutch say it should be covered (£2.40 a day on average if you were really interested) and is maybe something worth considering. Not just to cover coffee but extra gas, electricity and water you are using whilst WFH.
On the flip side, given working from home is going to reduce employee expenditure (no commuting costs) and coronavirus has floored the economy, it might not be the best time to ask for that salary increase of £2.40/day just yet….
My thoughts on the future There is no doubt in my mind that as a nation and individuals, we will be working from home more and more.
This throws up a whole host of challenges given we haven’t really got that much experience of it!
I think the old school thought of “if you're not in the office and I can’t see you, you can’t be working!” is still at large and will take time to adjust
More and more companies have adapted their Mental Health policy in relation to working from home and this is something that should be encouraged more and more.
For me, I would want a mix of office and home working. I really benefit from regular team catch ups and chats by the water cooler to check everyone is getting on well, and have that human interaction, but also taking the stress and costs out of the daily commute when I am remote working. And maybe if I ask nicely, the business could contribute to a Latte on a Friday!? 😁
Do let me know your thoughts on any of the above. It would be great to hear how your team and business have adapted to the new normal.
Any employers reading this with a specific WFH Mental Health policy, I would be really keen to hear from you too! (how has it been received, how are you implementing it and what are you implementing specifically?)