The Proximity Bias; Should we all be back in the office?

‘When are we coming back to the office?’  

‘Will we always do hybrid working?’ 

If you're an employer or an employee, I'm sure these are questions you’ve asked, or been asked recently. The topic of working from home, and the need for the office are on everyone’s lips. Since the pandemic forced many offices to close, remote working has been on an extreme uprise, and many offices are still conducting some form of work from home process, if not completely remote. 

We have spent almost 2 years in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has provided plenty of time for people to adjust to the new way of working, which is now making it difficult for people to readjust to returning to the office. As people have been working from home they have adjusted their lives around this process, getting used to not having to commute, saving money, and more flexibility. However, life is slowly getting back to normal, and working from home may soon be no longer a necessity.

With the emergence of the Omicron variant as of recent, the return to the office was postponed just as the world was starting to get back to normal. Findings showed that through the period of omicron, 45% of people had negative feelings about returning to work at that time, which highlights the anxiety that many might feel in regards to returning to work at this time.  

So, how can employers bring their employees back to the office, whilst keeping a high level of morale, and safety? 

Hybrid working could be the answer. Hybrid working is when you can work from home and the office - allowing people to have the best of both worlds. Whilst many people are used to the flexibility of working from home, they are still missing out on the interaction with colleagues in person - which is essential for a good working environment. One of the hardest parts of remote working would be the lack of interaction and engagement there is with colleagues, which is why collaboration suites and platforms like Zoom and Teams have proved to be integral for most businesses. A study found that almost half of employees (44%) state that they would want to work remotely for at least three days a week, proving that a lot of people are enjoying the flexibility that they currently have, but would still appreciate some office time.

Benefits of hybrid working 

  • Increased productivity
  • Better mental health amongst employees 
  • Improved employee satisfaction 
  • Better collaboration and working relationships 

There are three main options for your working structure post-pandemic; everyone returning to the office, adopting a hybrid approach or becoming fully remote. For the time being the workplace will need to maintain a certain amount of flexibility due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the effects it could still have in future. Employees are still obligated to stay away from work if they have symptoms, and offices may need to temporarily close if cases rise, which is why businesses need to be prepared for any sudden changes. It is clear that technology has proved to be incredibly effective and successful in remote working, as it is readily accessible for most, and allows for some collaboration whilst out of the office - making remote working an appealing way of working for many.

When considering what option to take for your work structure it is important to get the opinions of your employees and to also monitor productivity. If it is noticeable that hybrid working creates the most productivity and morale throughout your team then this should be considered - the same with both full-time office structures or fully remote. 

If you’re adjusting to the effects of covid on your business, or your workplace, The Great British Workplace Wellbeing Awards sessions will be holding talks on the return to the office. Discussing how it could be best managed, and what the best options are for your team. Sessions will take place on Wednesday 2nd March 2022.

11:35-12:15 - The Proximity Bias; Should we all be back in the office? 

Speakers include:

Ben Towers | Co-founder, Tahora

Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD | CEO, Jungle HR & Founder, Inclusion 247Becky Thoseby | Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Ministry of Justice

 

 

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