Forced Back in the Office? Top Tips to Handle Back to work
Does anyone else feel like they’ve lost track of what restrictions are still in place? After Covid guidelines were lifted back in July in England, it felt like everything was back to ‘normal’. But the rules are different across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and, of course, Covid-19 hasn’t just vanished.
Far from being normal, we’re still very much in limbo, especially when it comes to where people are working. Are you back in the office, still working from home, or is your employer introducing a hybrid way of working?
Some companies are offering an optional phased return to work. Others are allowing their staff to choose and request what best suits them. After all, it’s been proven that we can effectively work from home, and there are no software limitations, so why not empower employees to choose. Kudos to these forward-thinking companies.
However, some companies are taking a stronger line. Now that offices are opening again, there are reports of some organisations issuing directives about working solely from home or in the office. They are also potentially revisiting remuneration and rewards packages. It recently came to light that companies as large as Google were considering this as an option.
It’s a controversial point that has garnered much media attention over recent months. Companies are negotiating the muddy waters of keeping employees safe whilst ensuring they have a work-life balance and are still productive.
Take a moment to consider – how would you feel if, in your current role, you were directed to solely work from home, or come into the office? And, if you’re in a customer or client-facing role, is your company pushing you to hold face to face meetings? How comfortable do you feel with this?
Can my employer force me to work from the office?
The Government suggested a gradual return to work after Covid restrictions lifted and, across the UK, people are still being advised to work from home where possible. However, this is not mandatory. Your employer can request that you return to your place of work.
Conversely, you can request to keep working from home, but your employer is not under obligation to agree. They should take requests seriously, though, and consider the reasoning you have put forward.
Your employer does have a duty to keep you safe. If you feel like there aren’t enough steps in place to minimise the risk of exposure to Covid, then you have every right to raise these concerns. If you are in a vulnerable group and would have been shielding in the earlier stages of lockdown, it is reasonable to request that extra measures are taken by your employer to keep you safe.
Pros and cons of returning to the office
We have all experienced the pros and cons and the highs and lows of working remotely. On the plus side, it gives individuals greater flexibility, potentially more family time and a greater work-life balance. Plus, there are financial savings with no commuting costs and a significant drop in spend for lunches, coffees and snacks on the go.
On the downside, working remotely can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s hard to create a company culture when your colleagues are dotted around the country, if not further afield. Creating a sense of connection and community is difficult over video calls. It’s fair to say that most of us are ‘Zoomed’ out.
The work from home or the office debate has raised questions about the impact on different socio-economic groups too. What if people don’t have access to computers or devices at home? Will the company provide them? On the flip side, not everyone can invest in a lengthy commute or season ticket, so working from home suits them better.
We’re all the same… but different
The key is to have an open dialogue. Everyone’s wants and needs are as individual as they are. Some people crave company and are itching to get back to in-person meetings, whereas others may feel anxious about getting out again. Ask the open questions and see what you can make work.
If your employer is not doing this and didn’t treat you well during the pandemic, then this should set a warning bell ringing for you.
Despite us all being different, companies should aim to motivate and similarly reward workers. Regardless of where you work from, you should have the right ‘kit’ to carry out your work effectively, whether that’s hardware like a computer or software programmes that allow you to feel connected. No one should feel less valued simply due to the location they work from.
If you’re struggling to get back in the office despite requests from your company to do so, or if you’re not sure how to support your employees return to work, then the Remus Rewards Employee Assistance Programme offers more valuable advice.