Although some workers have benefited from the pandemic shift to home working, the same cannot be said for all, says Georgia Sandom.
Last month, Boris Johnson urged young people to work from the office as much as possible, stressing that this was ‘essential’, especially for those at the beginning of their careers, to learn valuable lessons and have the opportunity to develop within their jobs. Plan B restrictions, which go into place today, mean these career developmental milestones will have to wait.
But, as businesses look to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and its subsequent variants, the office still has a crucial part to play.
Not only is it a hub for collaboration and company culture, the lockdowns have shown us it is essential for wellbeing, productivity and development of those starting out in their careers.
Development opportunities are key
Ensuring that employees have the option to work from the office is vital for career development and personal motivation. According to latest research, working from home during the pandemic has led to a downfall in productivity in the UK, with the output of each worker declining by 19.9 percent.
For young people looking to learn by osmosis, the office has a key part to play, offering the chance to observe and learn from senior colleagues, alongside the ‘water cooler moments’ that are so important in early career development which can’t be recreated over Zoom.
A return to the office will encourage young workers to learn how to tackle any challenge that arises, with direct support from those in senior positions. It provides the opportunity to develop skills that will ensure success for individuals and, ultimately, for businesses themselves.
Unsuitable facilities lead to burnout
It is no surprise that, in OSiT’s recent survey into the impacts of home working, 72 percent of workers said they wanted to spend between one and four days working from the office. According to our research, 37 percent of workers said that working from home makes it harder to unplug at the end of the day, raising serious risks of burnout alongside the inability to switch-off, rest and recover.
Young professionals – many who live in urban house shares – are less likely to have access to a specific space to work, meaning their bedrooms have become their main workspace. In fact, 33 percent of respondents to OSiT’s survey said a lack of dedicated workspace remained a crucial disadvantage of home working, while 59 percent of young people said that they struggled to stay motivated during lockdown due to ‘poor working conditions’ at home.
But this is not just about statistics. Seeing first-hand the impact of home working on friends and colleagues inspired me to found the ‘Lonely Worker’s Club’ in 2020 – a community of my friends that worked from one of OSiT’s serviced offices.
One year on, the ‘Lonely Workers Club’ remains a testament to the importance of the office for setting good work/life boundaries that keep productivity and wellbeing front and centre.
Fostering a healthy working culture
Throughout the pandemic, young professionals have faced far greater feelings of isolation and disconnectedness than senior staff members.
In recent research, they were three times more likely to seek mental health support than older colleagues. Clearly, the office has an important part to play in building a culture that supports wellbeing and combats possible feelings of isolation.
As a result of Covid-19, young workers have missed out on the crucial social aspects and networking opportunities that come from working face-to-face, leaving many feeling adrift. Research from Nationwide suggests that 58% of Gen Z feel spending face-to-face time with colleagues is essential to effective work.8 After all, the office is not just for productivity – it is also at the heart of a businesses’ culture.
Health is a top priority
News of the Omicron variant serves as a reminder that the health of workers is paramount in returning to the office. According to OSiT research, 60 percent of workers said they would feel better if extra cleaning measures were put in place, whilst 50 percent said they would like hand sanitizer on each desk.
Other things to consider to create safe, productive and effective working environments would be to adopt staggered working times for your staff to help reduce capacity in the office and give more opportunity for social distancing. Businesses should have a clear and concise COVID-19 risk assessment mapping out the efforts to reduce risk in the workplace, for instance, enhanced cleaning measures.
Prioritising the office means planning for the future
After a prolonged period of lockdown home working, businesses should be thinking seriously about the role of the office in building a productive and nurturing work environment.
Those who are at the beginning of their career deserve to experience a more collaborative and sociable approach to work that prioritises wellbeing and allows young professionals to learn directly from their senior colleagues. Not only will this benefit individuals, it is also integral to the future success of businesses and the UK’s workforce at large.