Return to the Office
So the results are in and unsurprisingly considering the impact the pandemic has had on our working lives, opinions are strong. For every answer we find another question is raised.
There’s the obvious ‘dreading the commute’ which understandably features heavily plus rightly there are concerns regarding health and people’s safety but there’s also some wider questions surrounding…
Is a great team more important than a great environment?
Is the industry trying hard enough to find the right model?
And crucially it showcases the importance of getting the WFH vs in office balance right.
So let’s break it down…
First and foremost, are people happy to return? The jury is still out but the no’s are very much the vocal majority. As the survey was anonymous there’s no breakdown of age or seniority but for just under half of people (40%) it’s a straight no and they’re not afraid to say why with most people seeming to think that their opinions simply aren’t being taken on board.
“Our employer is very reluctant to listen to any arguments about working from home more than 2 days a week. It now feels like they have made their decision and don’t want to look like they are backing down despite most people wanting 2 days or less in the office.”
“Creativity needs collaboration at different stages – but to be able to step away and think about something in your own space and time is really welcome. Rigidly sticking to ‘come in twice a week’ going forward ignores the ebb and flow of the creative process. It should be project to project.”
Plus for most people they feel they’ve been more productive (63%) and felt like they’ve had more autonomy (a huge 75%) during the WFH period. But whilst there are obvious concerns that a return will bring risks to people’s health and reduce the time they can be productive as well as hurting their pockets, people can see the benefits as well. 59% feel they have struggled to be as creative during this period. In terms of looking forward, being together again is seen as a way to help alleviate this problem. Whilst people are keen for a separation between work and home life it is seeing work colleagues that comes highest on most people’s agenda whether that is in-person collaboration, having a laugh in the office or just simply seeing our work colleagues again (63%). A clear distinction between the importance of people and teams vs shiny offices and fancy restaurants.
And despite some clear uncertainty about returning, with 23% more than happy to return and 28% okay to return, the balance does swing ever so slightly into people being in favour of a return. Lessons do need to be learnt though and throughout the responses is a sense that things should not return to how they were.
“We should be learning from this period. What works better from home and what works best from the office. There’s no need to have set days or times working from an office unless absolutely necessary to what the goal is because there are so many negatives with having to all be in one place at the same time, the commute, the cost, the risk of everyone getting sick at the same time, the stress, the effect on work life balance etc.”
Plus crucially, every person surveyed believes that returning should be a part of a WFH/office balance with a quite close split between people thinking this should be flexible and more project based (45%) or going in for a set number of days (55%). Where there are set days by far the most popular choice is 2 days with 58% of people choosing this and nobody advocated a return to the office for 5 or even 4 days a week.
“I would like to return to the office 1-2 days a week to be in a creative space, build working relationships in person plus get time out of the house. But I would like to keep WFH for the majority of the week. I hope this continues in the future.”
So whilst the key takeout might not be as straightforward as let’s all go back vs let’s all stay at home, the appetite is clearly to find a model that works. Be it flexible and project by project or involving some WFH and some in-office collaboration. Will we ever be back in the office 5 days a week? It would seem that the majority of our industry are hoping not.
And as we come together once more and as the trickle of employees becomes a flow it is clear that finding the right balance between work/life and home/office will not be easy. It will however, be one found more easily if we come together as an industry as opposed to working alone.
We’d love to hear from you on what you think the future of WFH is for our industry. Feel free to get involved on our social channels and watch the accompanying video to this project.
With thanks to everyone who took part in the survey and contributed to the film. Special shout outs to West One Music for the music, Leigh Goulding for pulling together the edit, Simone Hendrick for sorting the graphics, Anthony McElhinney for the audio and Kate Boddington, Celia Bayne, Ash Temple plus Leigh and Simone for conducting the interviews.