Laura Jackson: How can employees ease back into the workplace?

As Freedom Day’ (19 July) has now passed, many employers are beginning to consider long-term plans for their workforce. The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has introduced remarkable shifts in peoples’ lives, including their working styles. It feels like every week the news reports another large corporate announcing plans to introduce hybrid working. But it’s not for everyone.

Most notably, major investment banks have taken more of a hard-line position on insisting its employees get back to the office. At the other end of the scale, some employers have chosen to save costs by giving up their office space entirely and moving their workforce to remote working. However, for the majority of large companies, it looks like hybrid working is the future, with most favouring the approach of three days in the office and two at home, or vice versa.

For employees who have been working from home for well over a year, it will be a big shift for them to get back into the office. Once again, employees will have to endure the commute to the office and juggling their caring commitments around working hours. There will also be those employees who have felt safe inside their home working bubble who feel daunted by the prospect of joining the wider world again, whether that’s through health concerns or other anxieties.

The implications for employees aren’t all negative though, and there will be many employees eager to return. Some just don’t have the right working environment at home, perhaps they don’t have enough space, the right equipment, or there are just too many distractions impacting upon their productivity.

It will also help employees create a better divide between home and work life, as it is easy to get sucked into working longer hours just to prove your productivity at home, or get lured back to the glow of your laptop when it is sat in your home-based work space, ever ready to be utilised.

A return to the office can also open up more opportunities to collaborate and socialise with colleagues, helping employees to feel better engaged and connected. For some employees this is also likely to have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.

Ultimately, the attitude of employees to a return to work will be very individual and based upon each employee’s own circumstances. While employers can introduce blanket policies dealing with return to work, it is always a good idea to be open to exceptions to those policies.

Laura Jackson is an associate at law firm LexLeyton