It is being widely reported in the UK that the UK Chancellor has been advising businesses that we must all return to the office. The claim he is making is that we all really do long to be back in the office and if employers don’t oblige us then many employees will quit.
Sky News: Rishi Sunak is calling on Britain’s employers to end working from home and allow staff back in the office – or risk them voting with their feet and quitting.
Return to Office – One Little Flaw Here
He is talking complete and utter nonsense.
Who exactly are all these employees who literally pine to burn a huge chunk of their income on travelling. For those that work in London, it costs literally thousands to buy an annual commuter ticket, and a chunk more for the privilege to park at a railway station.
Who seriously longs to once again be crammed into overcrowded trains and have their nose pressed into somebody else’s unwashed armpit every single day.
“Yes please”, to burning vast amounts of time, for some as much as four hours each and every day, getting into an office and then back home again.
I just can’t tolerate not getting up at 5am anymore, being away from home, and not walking in the door until late at night.
To be wholly fair, many do not endure that. Others do live in cramped conditions that really don’t facilitate home working. How many of us have been on a call where one chap chips in, unmutes and as he makes his point, you can hear his young kid literally screaming in his ear.
… and yet and yet and yet … it might on the surface appear dire, but his partner is delighted to have him there to chip in and help. They share the responsibility, and they don’t have childcare costs.
Why did Rishi Sunak make this claim?
It is perhaps more related to a hope for a return to the previous levels of economic activity. Right now as Chancellor he is funding rather a lot of things. He can’t keep burning cash at the current rate, he desperately needs the UK economy to go back to the way it once was, and by doing so pickup the tab he is currently paying.
Railway operators no longer make money is an obvious one, but also consider the vast numbers of people who depend upon office workers, all the support staff, all those that work in the stores around offices that supply coffee, food, etc…
No Return to office – the new normal
The rather obvious is that there will be no Return to Office normal. The world has changed … permanently.
Vast numbers of individual people have discovered that they rather like working at home.
Employers have discovered that they don’t need to pay for a desk for every single employee, and that it is a lot cheaper to downsize a good chunk of very expensive office space and invest in robust broadband infrastructure.
The World is flat
The new normal is a world where you no longer need to rely upon a potential pool of workers who are within commuting distance of your office; staff can be anywhere. This is of course only true for roles that facilitate this. If you can pick workers from a far bigger pool and are happy for them to sit at home then your choice of talent is vastly increased, but this only remains true if you, as an employer, are prepared to be geographically agnostic.
Why should an employer care if they are in a flat down the street, or sitting in a Cypriot house on the beach in Larnaca.
Do We Really Want a Return to Our Pre-COVID Work Lives?
Reality check. Some do want to be back in the office, but the reality is that the “Return to Office” for vast numbers who really don’t want that is not realistic. There is now a new normal taking shape.
Dr Mark Bolino, tackles this topic in Psychology Today.
There he presents four observations …
Here are four noteworthy developments, in particular, that should continue to be a part of our new normal:
(1) Appreciation for frontline workers. During the pandemic the contributions of frontline workers were in the spotlight. Those working in schools, hospitals, supermarkets, restaurants, public transportation, and other essential roles finally received some of the recognition and gratitude they deserve….
(2) Schedule flexibility. As a result of lockdowns, many employees were forced to work remotely from home. Working from home is likely to become increasingly common, with organizations currently developing hybrid work plans and employees facing complicated decisions about whether (and how much) to work remotely or in person….
(3) Autonomy and empowerment. Without their supervisors around them, many employees have also felt more empowered to make decisions about their work and the best way complete their assignments. When employees have more control over their work, it not only reduces their stress, but also increases their motivation and willingness to take on additional responsibilities….
(4) Work-life balance. Particularly at the start of the pandemic, many people were able to find more time to spend with their families. Family meals became more common, and quarantined families made board gamespopular again. In large metropolitan areas, commuter traffic fell dramatically, and employees who once had lengthy commutes spent less time stressedand caught in traffic (although too many employees spent their extra time working); business travel also decreased dramatically, and some employees even found time for napping….
There is no avoiding it. The old way of life is gone and really is not coming back.
We are perhaps still working out what the new normal will look like in the long term.
What is not obvious to Rishi Sunak, but is rather obvious to most, is that for many, if there is no work-from-home option, then that would be a deal breaker.
The concept of a return to office is perhaps a bit of a modern myth.