Will the office ever be the same again?

5 October, 2020

On 22 September 2020 Boris Johnson ‘once again [asked] office workers to work from home if they can’ and so again we see many people returning to their home offices for the foreseeable future.

Over the past few days, whilst sat in the comfort of my own home office, I have been reminiscing back to the old days where it was the norm for many people to work in the office.

My fellow trainee solicitor, Rachel Phillips, recently blogged on the topic of completing a training contract remotely. I, like Rachel, had returned to the office after the spring lockdown, albeit not on a daily basis. My reasons for returning to the office were multifaceted, including the social aspect of working alongside other people; but I also enjoy the greater work/life balance working from home provides.

Before lockdown, I had not worked from home since joining Cripps Pemberton Greenish – I had no reason to. The firm did have an Agile and Flexible Working Policy and some of my colleagues worked from home occasionally for a variety of reasons. Before joining Cripps Pemberton Greenish, I had worked for other companies that held differing views toward their colleagues working from home – one where a weekly ‘WFH’ day was mandatory and another where I was never able to work from home – no matter the reason.

For most companies, working from home was not the norm. Covid changed that. Companies who had not permitted staff to work from home before were forced to quickly adapt. As a result of the Government’s guidance, the number of people working from home rose significantly. An Office for National Statistics survey revealed that in April 2020 46.6 per cent of people in employment did some work at home, with 86 per cent of those working from home doing so as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Even before the Government’s latest position encouraging working from home where possible, many employees had still not returned to the office. When they did, it was rarely on a full time basis. With the new guidelines lasting for up to another 6 months, will we ever be able to return to an office that looked like those in December 2019?

Attitudes have undeniably changed towards working from home. Those preconceived negative views of working from home are sometimes justified – I had an ex-colleague call it her “working from bed day” – but the business world did not stop when most people started working from home. Yes people are actually working whilst they are at home! A Personnel Today article stated sixty-eight per cent feel they are either more productive or equally productive from home – which is particularly significant given the unique challenges many workers have faced handling childcare and home-schooling.

Whilst the shift towards a more flexible agile working policy was forced upon us, Covid has made us realise that working from home is a solid option and has fast forwarded us to a more flexible future of work.