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Back to normal, back to the grindstone…

London Bus

In a matter of days, most of the restrictions we’ve been living under will be lifted. One of these is the recommendation to work from home; the government will leave it up to employers to decide whether they continue with remote working, a hybrid arrangement, or if they insist that the entire workforce returns to the office.

Of course, there are many industries whose employees have never changed their working arrangements, because they cover key services or they’re front-facing/work directly with the public. Office workers and employees in other sectors, however, have been able to work from home during the pandemic, though this may now change.

So, are we all raring to return to the office?

Woman slightly bored in the office

Opinion is still divided. There are those that relish being back in the office, whilst others are counting down the days to returning with a sense of dread. There have even been some who have handed in their notice when asked to return to their employers’ headquarters, such is their desire to continue working from home.

I read about one household, where the husband had been working remotely for the last fifteen months. There wasn’t much space in their home, and he’d been working from a desk in the corner of their lounge. He was in no rush to go back to his employer’s; however, the rest of the family were desperate for things to return to normal. The kids, who were instructed not to make any noise during working hours. The wife, who wanted to use the lounge during the day as a family room, but who was instead relegated to the kitchen. In their situation, the husband/father permanently working from home would be disastrous, even if he couldn’t see it himself. Few people, back in March 2020, would have foreseen the length of time the pandemic would impact our daily lives. Initially, arrangements like this family had to endure may have been tolerable, because they were deemed to be short-term—but living like they do, day in, day out, year upon year…it’s not realistic.

I’ve also seen a number of discussions online about employers who promised a hybrid approach to working when things returned to normal, i.e. a few days at home and a few days in the office, but who have now reneged on such agreements. Other companies have gone as far as to ask their employees what they would like, with regards to their working situation, before deciding that everyone must be office based—despite the fact their employees had overwhelmingly plumped for remote/hybrid working. You would, in their position, think, ‘What was the point of all that?!’

As someone who isn’t as productive when working from home (I have a lovely, separate office, and no kids to keep quiet—I’m just very easily distracted), I’m happy to work from my employers’ offices. I just need scientists to invent teleporters to get rid of my commute, then life would be perfect. This is my personal choice from a privileged position; had my girls still been toddlers that needed to be silenced for eight hours a day, or I was required to be productive, sat on my bed, my laptop on my knees, for the full working day, I’m not sure I’d want to be a homeworker. I truly sympathise with the family mentioned above, and many others across the country who may be at loggerheads over the issue. The question of whether to return to the office, in my opinion, is not just one for the employee, but of their whole family if the decision is likely to impact everyone in the house.

If an employee doesn’t agree with their employer’s decision to return to the office, of course, they are free to vote with their feet and find another position that is happy to accommodate them; that said, the job market is not quite as easy to conquer as it may have been, pre-pandemic.

Whether a key worker or home worker, it’s not really a case of ‘back to the grindstone’. It’s been bloody hard work for most people these last fifteen months…did we ever leave the grindstone to return to it?


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