To say the last year has been like no other would be something of an understatement. As Covid-19 swept around the globe, our lives have undergone many changes. The odds are that you found yourself unexpectedly taking the leap into remote working. Maybe you suddenly found yourself home-schooling your children. Perhaps you or your family members have had Covid. Or have you been in the office, but in ways you never expected.
And now, elements of what constituted life before Spring 2020 are once again beginning to return. We’ve successfully made it past the first road marker, with non essential shops and outdoor hospitality reopening, with bigger groups of people allowed to meet outside. But work is a different story. People have been continuing to work from home, until a review of social distancing rules has been completed which will be by 21 June. An important question is on the horizon – how do we navigate returning to work? And how are you feeling about that possibility?
Before lockdowns began, cloud-based computing allowed workers to collaborate with their teams across networks, sharing documents and files regardless of where they were and without disruption to their working week. It was a smart digital solution that opened the door to more remote-working options. In 2010, 884,000 UK adults were reported to be working from home for their main job. By January 2020, 1.54 million were. At the height of lockdown 6/10 people were working from home.
When the initial lockdown happened, for many companies, having employees work from home was the only way of surviving. And now sanctions are lifting, there are mixed feelings about heading back into the office full time. You might be loving the way remote working has added hours back into your day, increasing your energy and productivity, or you might have found remote working to be a pain in the neck, due to hours working in a home not properly set up for work. Some people have felt extremely isolated without the real life contact workplaces provide. The pandemic has had differing effects on all of us.
So how do we successfully return to work?
Firstly, through acceptance.
People’s experiences have been so diverse over this time, that accepting we don’t all feel the same when it comes to returning to work is crucial. Data collected by Prolific on behalf of the University of Nottingham and Stanford University show a huge disparity in people’s preferences in relation to working from home vs from an office. You might be in a position where returning to an office full time could feel like a real struggle, after working from home for over a year. For some of us, there is a high level of anxiety about returning to work spaces, and managing commutes on crowded public transport. Accepting how you feel may help pave the way for any negotiations or conversations you might need to have about what you can manage, and what you feel you need.
Secondly, with hybrid working options.
The good news is that lots of companies are embracing a hybrid working approach. This seems to be a positive common sense solution to the dilemma faced by many. Some companies are offering employees a combination approach, asking people to be in the office for a proportion of time whilst giving the option of also working the remainder of hours from home. Companies such as Lloyds Banking, Virgin Media and Deutsche Bank are all looking to head in this direction. Hybrid working combines the benefits of flexible working whilst keeping the benefits of spending time together in the workplace. Research from the Boston Consulting Group found that 86% of UK workers claimed to have benefited from remote working, saying they were less distracted and had a better work-life balance. Does that ring true for you? And if hybrid working is seemingly the new path forwards, is it possible to make it even better?
Virtual Experiences can help too!
Whilst it’s been predominantly digital solutions that have helped us navigate work throughout the pandemic, implementing Virtual tools could help smooth the pathway for your return into a workspace, by giving you more options. Ever wished you could attend meetings on an island paradise? You can! Or wanting to attend a work night out, but also being someone that has to shield? You can! Virtual experiences can turn up the fun in any workplace, it also has a much larger part to play than that, reducing isolation, providing people with options and helping you get the most out of your working life.
Using virtual technology such as 360 photography and 360 videography, we can get closer to the physical ways that we communicate, collaborate and socialise. Our immersive and interactive tools can bridge the gap that is so noticeable when working remotely and digitally. Virtual Tools can help maintain the energy and satisfaction of teams, relieve loneliness, preserve work-life balance and cope with technological restrictions. There are so many awesome ways Virtual Experiences can positively impact your working life. When thinking about returning to work, think virtual!