Attracting staff back into the office

17 Sep 2020

future of working covid-19 office life office design health & wellbeing

The taste of working from home has left many reluctant to go back to pre-covid office life. What should businesses be doing to attract staff back?

Guernsey’s unique position has meant that the return to work was swift and relatively hassle-free. With social distancing a thing of the past, reintegration into the office as we knew it was rapid. But businesses were left in a position where employees had grown to like the flexibility that working from home provided. And many have either implemented or are now considering a shift to at least a partial WFH policy.

At the start of lockdown, POS Interiors conducted a survey, which found that more than 63% of people believed they were either as productive or more productive than they were in the office. A resounding 67.23% found their work-life balance improved. But around two thirds said their home workspace was not ergonomically adjustable or comfortable, and more than three-quarters missed social interaction with colleagues.

This leaves businesses with important questions to address to ensure that they are getting the most out of a workforce that’s had a taste of total remote working. Rory Inglis, managing director of POS, says businesses should learn from the lockdown experience and use it to create a way of working that is mutually beneficial to them and their staff.

‘Businesses should be engaging with their staff now and build a risk strategy for what happens should a second wave hit. What are people’s expectations? How would it impact them if they had to work from home again?’ he said.

Attracting people back into the office after any period of remote working is extremely important. An environment where people can collaborate, communicate and interact is the backbone of any successful organisation.

‘There has to be a draw to get people back in. If you’re not going to provide them with a good home working set up, you need to look ahead to your workspace and repurpose that. Fundamentally, if working from home provides space for deep work and concentration you need to attract them back into a space that also provides this.

‘A place that is exciting and reinforces the values of the brand, and ultimately connects people across the business. That’s going to be so important to the future of the workspace.’

Deep working, or the ability to concentrate without distraction, seems like an obvious asset for any business. But often, open plan offices with assigned workstations don’t allow for this. And that can have an impact on the bottom line.

‘Every time you get interrupted it takes three times longer than the interruption itself to get back to where you were before you were interrupted. So, on average, that equates to 10 to 15 minutes of lost time because you’ve been distracted or interrupted,’ said Rory.

‘That’s a big issue in workplace design at the moment. Distraction leads to both downtime and the potential to make mistakes.’

Even before the covid-19 pandemic hit, employee wellbeing was of fundamental importance in the workplace. Now, the fear about physical wellness coupled with the mental stresses associated with a global event, it is more important than ever. The WFH route does to some extent alleviate the impact of the notification culture. While the phone still rings and the emails still pop up, the ability to focus can counteract this. Particularly when there isn’t the physical distraction of noise, conversations and being summoned to a meeting room.

So what is the answer? Well, according to Rory, flexibility and forethought are vital. Businesses have realised that their staff can be trusted to work perfectly well from home, but it isn’t the ideal solution on a full-time basis.

‘It’s so important that businesses look ahead and plan to provide an inspiring work environment that helps to fosters innovation, improve culture and drive performance. To do that, work environments need to offer flexibility and variety, to support modern knowledge workers with the different tasks that they’re expected to do,’ he said.

‘Surveys have found that people who are happy are 31% more productive than those who are negative, neutral or stressed. The environment plays a huge role. People aren’t just looking at “what are you going to pay me?”; it’s more about what supports their wellbeing and work-life balance. Environments that don’t inspire or make people feel comfortable or relaxed are unlikely to support the concept of wellbeing.

‘Businesses that have a lack of investment in the workspace are really showing a lack of investment in the workforce. Those businesses who will come through this and be really successful are the ones who invest in their people.’