Points of view: Polarisation in the workplace

Everyone has their own perception of what their ideal workplace should look like. Some people thrive in a busy work environment, with a bustling office and bubbling conversation. For others, the quieter the better, for concentration and efficiency. But with work from home (WFH) now the norm for many people and offices downsizing or hybrid working, what suits someone doesn’t suit another. Everyone has a point of view, and in some instances it’s causing friction in the workplace.

Different perspectives

For many people, the hybrid working model – of working from the office for part of the week, from home the remainder – is an ideal that was unthinkable a decade ago. The many different pressures of modern life beyond work, such as childcare, school runs or caring for elderly relatives, have eaten into the time available in our daily lives. The flexibility afforded by WFH has gone some way to redressing the balance, with the opportunity to start earlier or later, pop out to pick the kids up, work on later, or make better use of the time usually devoted to the daily commute.

Others have found the extra time afforded by WFH to be valuable for exercise, or to take up new hobbies or interests. But for others, the enforced solitude of WFH is no benefit at all. Some people work better with colleagues around them and certainly, the spirit of collaboration is lessened if the same interactions are carried out onscreen over the internet, rather than in person. People interact differently when they are present with one another in a way that cannot really be replicated online. The solitary nature of home working has also taken a toll on some employees’ mental health. People who previously had no physical or mental health problems at all are now finding that issues like office lighting or the close presence of other people are causing them health or anxiety issues.

A common goal

Some businesses are starting to demand people are back in the workplace, so employees are making the decision as to whether they stay or go. Do they stick with a job they like, but doesn’t allow them the flexibility they enjoyed during lockdown? Or do they seek another role elsewhere? It’s also interesting as to who holds the power here. It’s usually acknowledged that happy staff are more productive, but polar opposite opinions will only cause tension. Bosses will not want to lose disgruntled staff, but many managers see WFH as unmanageable. Common purpose is important and the hybrid way of working is here to stay. Both employers and employees will have to adapt, to make these new methods work for everyone.

Some managers say it’s difficult to ascertain productivity and ‘office hours’ attendance when staff are working at home. But is more time wasted in the office catching up with colleagues when you see them? If it’s an event for everyone to meet in the office, a certain amount of time is lost each time with normal interactions, such as conversation, making a cuppa. But these are part of what makes working in an office fun and mentally beneficial and stimulating. The aspects of the ‘place’ in addition to the ‘work’.

If we are to see a widespread and voluntary return to the office – en masse – then there must be some flexibility on the part of managers and bosses too, when it comes to hours and days worked. In this way, everyone will feel that their point of view has been appreciated and it’s a win-win for all, as they aim for a common goal.