Working practices in lock-down have been similar to the shock therapy of a fad diet: Some people profess how amazing it is, some hate it.
Most know there are real benefits, but are just craving that pizza or a glass of wine every now and again. Just like wanting to see your colleagues face-to-face or not having to work at the kitchen table.
I'm suspicious of those professing how universally wonderful the lock-down working environment is. Like golf bores, veganazis, and Northern Soul-boys - I love chipping in from the bunker, a nut roast, and The Snake by Al Wilson as much as the next person, but they are not the only thing I want in my life. If you have the luxury of space, the ability to lock out other distractions, and even a job in the first place you are in a minority. By eulogising how wonderful it is, you'll miss the subtlety of a complex situation that has different implications for everyone. The IES Working at Home Wellbeing Survey shows a worrying deterioration of physical and mental health amongst workers.
We need to think of our working environment a bit like our diet. Speak to most nutritionists and they will tell you the importance of a long term balanced diet that works for you. So it is with working practices. Many were excited by finally being 'allowed' to work from home. They did Jo Wicks at 9am, got onto zoom by 9.45, and out of their PJs just before lunch. Maybe even hitting the biscuit jar hard for a couple of days. The novelty wore off pretty quickly and now there is plenty of talk about Zoom fatigue, actually missing seeing our workmates in person and wanting to get back to the office.
All the evidence points to the fact that employees are mostly acting with self control, being disciplined, acting in the best interests of their businesses, themselves, and others around them. Most of the feedback studies such those by O2 and ICM, to employers being not only satisfied, but impressed by their workers’ attitude and commitment working from home. Likewise, employees are pleased with their employer’s attitude. However, a report by Visier and Censuswide found that half of workers expect a remote working reversal after Covid.
So our working life should be like a balanced diet - we all need to take personal responsibility, we should tailor it to our needs, we need to be aware of the impact on those around us. Employers should be thinking along the same lines: you can trust your people to work in the way that is best for them and you, if you give clear expectations and autonomy.
Creating a longer term sustainable, more healthy and more productive approach to our work means we're neither solely feasting on the junk food of being tied to a desk, nor the aubergine frittata of home isolation. The benefits of well thought out working practices will be evident to everyone, just as long as we get that tasty burger now and then.