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Freedom Day – How Do You Feel About Returning to The Office?

Freedom Day – How Do You Feel About Returning to The Office?
19 July 2021

For some, Freedom Day marks a much-awaited return to some of our pre-pandemic habits, including working at the office instead of at home. But is everyone keen to come back?

Alison, a London law firm PA, told BluDesks, an online workspace booking platform, that she feels anxious about returning to the office, but grateful that it won’t be a five day a week return, as the boss is moving to more flexible working:

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little nervous about coming back to the office, as I really have found home working much easier as it works around the family and the lack of a commute has been one thing I’ve certainly not missed whilst home working. But that said, I have missed the busy environment and having work colleagues around which I think does help keep up morale”.

Alison is far from being alone in her perceptions, as a report from the British Psychological Society gives guidance and advice on COVID-related anxiety and stress in the workplace.


“I really don’t have a structure in the same way I did before working from home. It’s ok and I manage it but I can be still on meetings late into the evening and lunchtimes have pretty much gone by the wayside most days.”


Client Account Manager


The Blurred Lines of Home Working


The guidance, issued late last year, stated that on returning to the office "Responses will be influenced by a wide range of risk factors including vulnerabilities within the family, change in job roles, threat of redundancy, skill shortages, social networks, and current and previous experience of loss, bereavement, and illness. Feelings are likely to be significantly affected by factors that increase the risks and challenges posed by COVID-19 (e.g. being from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic [BAME] background)."

Some notable larger businesses, including HSBC and Unilever have stated that they are never returning full time to the office. but for many smaller to mid-size businesses, the attitudes and commitments to flexible working models are far less clear.

Home working for many has meant the blurring of lines of when we are "on duty", leading to putting in far more hours.

Jason, a Client Account Manager said, “I really don’t have a structure in the same way I did before working from home. It’s ok and I manage it but I can be still on meetings late into the evening and lunchtimes have pretty much gone by the wayside most days.”

CEO of BluDesks, Chelliah Nakeeran commented, “What we’re finding now, is that although home workers have been reticent to try venturing out of their four walls, they have reported back having an amazing experience at our workspaces, even if they only booked for an hour or two.

"So I guess it’s just about plucking up the courage again to get back out there, because there really is a warm welcome for you at our centres if you do make the effort, and many are close to where you live, meaning very little travel time.”


70% of Organisations are Still Developing a Workplace Strategy


According to a new survey from XpertHR, 69.9 per cent of organisations are still actively planning or considering permanent changes to where employees carry out their work as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Fewer than one in 20 (3.8 per cent) are not contemplating any changes.

 In what has been the biggest shift in how we work in recent years, the unprecedented nature of the pandemic has given employers the opportunity to innovate and consider new ways of working like never before. The message from HR practitioners in response to XpertHR’s survey was clear – working and the workplace will not return to the same form as prior to the pandemic. But where plans are now is unlikely to be where practice ends up. A thoughtful approach to changes is being taken, with employee wellbeing at the centre of the planning process.

The research found that for 27 per cent of organisations the most influential factor on their organisation’s plan for the future of the workplace was a survey of employees’ preferences, followed by ensuring COVID-19 secure workplace/physical restrictions on workplace capacity (17.8 per cent), and employee wellbeing (14.2 per cent). Only 6.0 per cent of organisations list cost savings as the most influential factor when it comes to plans for the future of the workplace.

 Noelle Murphy, Senior HR Practice Editor at XpertHR, commented:

“The past 16 months have thrown HR professionals into unchartered waters, and this uncertainty continues as we step out of lockdown restrictions. HR are driving the move to new models and are looking to create strategies that facilitate teamwork, collaboration and connection. Using lessons learned over the past year or so, HR are approaching this new world of work thoughtfully, taking steps informed by the people who will be impacted by them most. Cost, senior leadership preferences, nor time seem to be the strongest influence on HR’s strategy. Instead, a focus on employees, their wellbeing, and their engagement is taking precedence.

“With such an opportunity to shape workplaces in a way never seen before, HR professionals need to make sure they can properly understand and keep up with the changes and desires within their own organisation, and the market. It’s vital that HR professionals arm themselves with the right tools, data, and guides as they step forward into this new world of work beyond the pandemic.”

Picture: a photograph of a person wearing a suit

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 19 July 2021


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