The Covid restrictions have been lifted. Hurrah, let’s get back to work and blow the cobwebs away. Let’s put the negativity of the last 24 months behind us and get on with life.
It’ll be a true test of character. The best opportunity in half a century for those ambitious people who want to get on in life – right across the spectrum, from technology specialists, truck drivers, health professionals or hospitality folk. Career paths for the masses are here to stay and the future is lined with opportunity, cash and even cryptocurrency.
Of course, there are always people who prefer to use the system to their advantage without putting in the effort. There will be those who have enjoyed the default “pay rise” of not having had to pay for season tickets or transport to work costs for the last couple of years and be reluctant to give it up, but do we really want those people working for us anyway?
Being in the office for at least three days a week will keep you current. It’ll re-spark the environment where creativity, new ideas, problem solving, improvements, humour, camaraderie, pride, coaching, friendship, sanity – I could go on – thrive.
The sharpness of being at work in the company of others is the antithesis of all things Zoom and Teams, that are foggy, boring, and depressing. They are crude work tools we over-relied on in a period of crisis, that can never replace the strength of face-to-face collaborative working.
Sure, hiring decisions have been made, appraisals have taken place and people have been on-boarded online, but to unite people behind a cause, to create something exciting, you need to be there in person.
It’s the same for leadership. To inspire people effectively, you need to see the whites of their eyes and find a more sophisticated level of communicating and understanding.
It’s more difficult to pick-up delicate emotions like longing, pride, discomfort and little white lies via a computer screen.
In nearly all cases, productivity will be higher in the workplace than working from home. Humans are gregarious pack animals and need others to bounce off, to chat to and to laugh with to be the best version of themselves.
The Government itself has called on the Civil Service to lead the way in a return to office, but many appear to be dragging their feet – and not just the ones serving beer at Downing Street parties.
The latest Office for National Statistics figures released just a couple of weeks ago show the number of people attending a workplace has only crept up from 57 per cent late last year to 62% in January.
The ONS also estimates that more than one in ten (12 per cent) work from home and nearly a fifth (18 per cent) have adopted a hybrid model of working. That’s too many and must change back.
Organisations like the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development are not helping, saying employers will have to accommodate home and office-based working from now on, if they want to attract the best young talent. That simply isn’t true – how will this year’s graduate intake learn the ropes and feel the pride in the organisation by working from home?
Pure homeworking will lead to a two-tier workplace where out of sight is out of mind and home workers will not be considered for the same opportunities as their office working colleagues. They’ll soon find that their careers suffer as a result.
At InterQuest, we are encouraging almost 1000 staff and contractors to come back into the office if they can. It was dreadful for them and for us to have them all working from home and the human cost was high.
We have seen profound mental health challenges among a surprisingly broad section of our employees and two-thirds of them used the professional counselling services we offered. Instead of worrying about Covid, we now need to start thinking about the more important things in life such as how to properly fund the health service and make it run efficiently, and how to fix the mental health issues of the tens of millions of people we’ve screwed up as a result of lockdown.