As I write, nearly 25 million of us in the UK have now been vaccinated. At the same time Lockdown #3 restrictions are beginning to be lifted. The government roadmap aims to return us to normal over the summer. Is it now possible that – come Autumn – the vast majority of us will be back in the office? Will working from home become a thing of the past?
Working from home versus working in the office
Earlier in the pandemic, there was much well-publicised opinion about the benefits of “working from home”. An enforced experiment demonstrated to many employers that their staff could still be productive away from the office environment. Could this be the way forward, even after the pandemic is over? Some companies even declared that all their employees could work at home 5 days a week for ever more!
But is this still correct? Or are employers changing their mind again – as normality beckons? In other words, has the novelty of working from home worn off…for both office workers – particularly the young – and their employers?
Who really benefits from home-based working?
Clearly, there are advantages to being home based: no tedious, costly and time-consuming commute for starters. Removing the rush hour from our lives has had an immediate environmental benefit, with air quality improving dramatically during the initial lockdown. Fundamentally, stepping away from the rat-race demonstrated that a better, more balanced and flexible life style was possible.
In our view that many businesses will be in favour of flexibly working part of the week at the office with the remainder at home.
As lockdown continued, views evolved. More recently they’ve settled in favour of flexibly working part of the week at the office with the remainder at home. It remains our view that this will certainly be the approach for many businesses. Certainly our recent survey of UK businesses confirmed this viewpoint. It makes sense for employees who have reached a certain level. Quiet time to execute work away from the hustle and bustle, but back in the office to interact with others for the rest of the week. Of course, working from home is perfect for administrators, clerks, and telephone support, who need little interaction with others. Zoom may be enough to fill the gap when they do.
Office based work is vital for career development – especially if you’re young
Certainly, for middle or senior managers with a decent home office environment, working from home could be quite comfortable and work well. However, not everyone is this in this fortunate position. If you are young and trying to develop your career, sitting on the end of your bed with a laptop is hardly ideal. Sharing the kitchen table and an internet connection with your flat-mates isn’t any better!
If you are young and trying to develop your career, sitting on the end of your bed with a laptop is hardly ideal.
Furthermore, how do you develop your skills if not close to more experienced colleagues? Importantly, senior staff will not just issue tasks, but also oversee them, as well as guiding you by example? We should never underestimate the value of passive learning. Interaction is vital to career development. Now that the novelty of working from home has well and truly worn off, many will have realised that career progress is going to be slow. And their employers realise this as well: the young are their future too.
How do you develop your skills if not close to more experienced colleagues? We should never underestimate the value of passive learning.
Hurting the career prospects of younger people is damaging for business
Two weeks ago, David Solomon, Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs made it quite clear that he fully expects all 38,000 people to be back in the office as soon as this is feasible. Critically, if Goldman Sachs take this route, surely others will follow. To do otherwise will at the very least disadvantage the careers of the younger people and – by extension – the future of the business itself.