There’s no dispute that COVID-19 has had a huge and far-reaching impact, turning both our work and personal lives upside down and inside out.
After many have spent over a year working from home, thoughts are finally turning towards returning to the office – and the biggest question on everyone’s lips, is just how will this look post pandemic?
As one of the North’s leading flex-space providers, BusinessLodge, with sites in Bury and Stoke has been watching the government roadmaps with a keen eye. Offering innovative office solutions to up-and-coming businesses, we have a real insight into workplace trends – and so we asked our management team for their views on what we’re likely to see in this new era of office working:
Kate Holt, Managing Director – workers keen to get back to “normal”
A really interesting question to ask in relation to how we move forward is “how many people actually want to work in offices?”.
After all, many have got used to working in our PJs with the dog at our feet and nipping into the garden for a cuppa when the sun comes out. It has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to really check out just what “working from home” actually means.
Like most things, the reality is very different from the dream. Working at home is a novelty short term – but according to the majority of our clients, it’s quickly worn off. Often, home working isn’t practical as life gets in the way. Most people don’t have the luxury of their own office and have had to make so. 14 months in, they are fed up and want their homes back. People like a clear distinction between home and work and currently, the line are very blurred.
While some bigger businesses have mooted long term homeworking, the reality is, it isn’t sustainable and it’s not always productive. People still need to come together to work and collaborate effectively – and what’s more, they have a real desire to do so. What we’re likely to see is lots of flex-working, a hybrid model where people float between the office and home. That is a win win all round.
Juliette Davenport, Centre Manager, BusinessLodge Bury – businesses moving out of the city centres
When the pandemic first hit, like most businesses we all wondered how things would play out – particularly as we’d all been told to work from home.
By last summer we’d started to see another trend emerge – companies who are based in City centres, looking to relocate closer to home in centres like BusinessLodge.
There are several reasons for this. For many of the companies that we are talking to, travel is playing a huge role in prospective relocations. Staff have got used to the work-life balance that the pandemic has provided. In addition, they are not quite so willing to jump on a train or bus while the pandemic rumbles on.
Of course, driving remains an option – however parking in city centres can be upwards of £25 a day for those who want to use their car – which can add up to a huge amount each year.
For most people, a long daily commute is a necessary evil. By basing the business closer to where employees live, that travel time is cut right down. That’s several hours a week that people can use more effectively, from spending time with family and friends to working out in our on-site gym.
And while keeping local, there are more opportunities to walk and cycle to work – which is healthier for both you and the environment.
The new era off offices is all about keeping it as local as possible.
Paula Nadin, Centre Manager, BusinessLodge Stoke – newly configured offices
The pandemic brought many new words to our vocabulary – a key one being “social distancing”. 18 months ago, we’d never heard of this, but now it’s key in daily life – and in every workplace.
Great strides have been made in the number of covid cases thanks to the marvellous vaccine programme – however, social distancing is likely to be in place for some time to come.
Most workplaces are now set up to be covid safe. Screens are in place, posters are displayed widely, and most noticeably of all, workstations have been repositioned to accommodate the 2 metre rule. While this has been done first and foremost to adhere to guidelines, there has been another unintentional side effect. People are enjoying having more space. They are finding that it helps them think more clearly and are actually more productive with fewer distractions.
We’ve seen several of our clients upscale to bigger work office space to facilitate this- and to be prepared for future restrictions. I predict that this new, connected yet distanced way of working is here to stay.
Michael Crossley, Assistant Centre Manager, BusinessLodge Stoke
Being “back in the office” isn’t just about the physical move from home to workplace. For many people, there is also a huge mental shift to be made.
Many employees will be feeling anxious about returning to work, for many different reasons. Health is a key one, naturally. Employers are fully aware of their obligations to protect the health and safety of staff against COVID 19 and have the floor stickers, safe work stations and are ensuring regular handwashing.
Even with these measures in place, some employees will still feel vulnerable and businesses need to recognise this.
On top of health, workers may have a whole host of other concerns about getting back into the office. While some may have felt isolated, others will have thrived on the time spent working from home – and for them, being thrown back in to a pot of colleagues, procedures and politics could prove challenging.
More and more businesses now have health and safety first aiders in place, and this will fast become the norm. This new recognition of mental well-being is a welcome change that I hope is here to stay.