As the UK continues with its roadmap out of lockdown, the future of the office landscape inevitably is coming in to the spotlight again.

What is already evident with the remote working revolution, is the divided opinions of many about the return to the office.

There are those who have enjoyed the shift of dynamics, the lack of a daily commute, more flexibility on working hours to exercise at lunch time, as well as being more productive in work activities due to the lack of distractions. Then there are those who have either struggled to adapt, or simply do not enjoy remote working. Ironically some have found there to be even more distractions working from home and want a return to the office for the very reason others don’t.

Don’t forget the new employees who were hired during the pandemic and have never met a single colleague face-to-face! Developing personal relationships with peers will be paramount to many people’s happiness in the workplace.

Those who prefer home working will be dreading the daily commute and some have anxieties about going into busy and crowded environments. On the other hand, those who have found the blending of home life, home schooling, cramped work spaces and working from home difficult to juggle, will be longing for a return to the office.

For organisations there is going to be a real balancing act from a mental health and well-being perspective. One size isn’t necessarily going to fit all and agility will be key.

But what if the option was between never returning to the office again or never getting to work from home again? The general consensus appears to be a hybrid model, with a combination of flexible office and home working, which would seem the most practical solution. A blended approach will help companies maintain their culture, increase productivity of employees and offer their staff the flexibility and environment needed to deliver on work objectives as well as maintain work-life balance.

The next 12 months will be critical and it is important that employers avoid taking any knee-jerk decisions. A phased approach to reopening seems likely to be the case for most organisations. Many companies are offering an ‘optional’ return to office rather than simply dictating that employees must return to the office. 

However, as lockdown eases and more and more of our ‘normal’ daily activities return to our lives, will some companies just return back to ‘old ways’?

There is an opportunity to change the landscape of the future workplace so organisations need to think carefully about their plans and how they will manage the transition to enhance productivity and maintain employee wellbeing. There are many innovations that can be considered such as hot-desking and drop-in offices where teams can gather for meetings, rather than the traditional 9 to 5 routine.

As the economy recovers, one thing is for sure, companies will begin rebuilding their workforces and hiring new talent. And those companies who don’t manage this situation well, could be caught in the firing line as employees seek organisations more suited to their individual needs or deemed to have more to offer.

It’s important not to get complacent, how employers treat staff now, will be remembered long after the pandemic. Make no mistake the ‘war for talent’ will be tougher than ever and there will be winners and losers.

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