We’re now two years into the pandemic. For many Melbourne people, the start was marked by the sudden cancellation of the March 2020 Formula 1 Grand Prix, followed just over a week later by the early start of school holidays and the shift to Work From Home for most white-collar workers – which for many has kept going ever since.
At first I was foolish enough to think it wouldn’t last long. Perhaps a couple of months. And then we’d all return to how it was before.
Six months to a year in, and a common view was that eventual normality would be three days in the office, two at home.
But now we’re two years in, and even leaving aside ongoing COVID-19 cases and health concerns, I think expectations have changed.
While some are sticking to the three days idea, others are asking: why return regularly at all?
It depends on your perspective of course. For technical people who spend most of their day on a computer, and have a quiet space at home to work, they might prefer to keep working from home.
For others with noisy homes, or whose day is mostly about working with others, they might prefer to go into the office more.
I found this very perceptive: people who are often in some types of jobs are more likely to be pushing to go back in.
Sadly, I think HR departments (and management to an extent) are full of Extroverts (those who get energy from others), and so they don’t see the world like Introverts (people who are drained by the company of others). It’s been an Introverts paradise. It will hurt to give it up.— digitalNic (@Handleman) February 23, 2022
For myself I’m somewhat conflicted.
I love the City when it’s busy. And I know that a lot of what makes public transport work (especially in Australian cities) is large numbers of city commuters.
But… I’m not an extrovert. I work in a technical role. I have a quiet space to work at home.
If being in the office means a cramped desk in an open plan, noisy, busy, distracting space, why would I want to go back there?
Zoom remote meetings took some time to get used to, but there are actually some key advantages.
- You have access to your computer – if an answer isn’t to hand, you can easily look it up during the meeting. (In theory this can happen in-person, but it rarely seemed to occur in meetings I attended)
- If only part of the meeting is relevant to you, you can get on with other work while you listen in.
- Using Zoom and some other tools, meetings can easily be recorded, to provide a full record of what went on. This includes Knowledge Transfer sessions where the amount and accuracy of information recorded can be far better than anybody’s notes.
Others of course will have different views.
Younger office workers and new employees may benefit a lot more from being in an environment where they can learn from others, and informally network with colleagues.
Last month I tried a totally-unscientific Twitter poll to see what others thought.
Without knowing who precisely responded, the management/HR expectations of 3+ days per week in the office may be way out of whack with the sentiment of many office workers.
If you’ve worked from home since COVID started, what’s your preference for going back to the office? ?— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) February 23, 2022
So broadly, 45% are okay with 3-5 days per week in the office, but around 55% want fewer or none.
I hope most workplaces will have a conversation with their employees about what people want, rather than dictating the view from a few managers.
If they are too demanding, they may find their people look elsewhere.