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Return to Office: Pros and Cons

A laptop in an office.

The year 2020 ushered in several changes in the workplace. Almost all office workers were forced to move their workspaces to their homes due to the COVID 19 Pandemic. Now its 2022 and some businesses are choosing to return to the office.

Return to Office

For many, working from home allowed them to enjoy a more flexible and productive lifestyle. Therefore, many welcomed this change over time. But now with businesses wanting staff to return to the office, this has become a controversial topic. There are both pros and cons to this decision, and it is important to separate the two. 

There are many aspects to this decision including health and safety and personal reasons. These needs can differ between companies and even between individual employees. Therefore, this is a complex decision which must be considered from various perspectives.

Pros of Returning to the Office

It is worth bearing in mind that not everyone likes to work from home. Some roles require people to be in the office for meetings or specialist facilities provided by the company. Additionally, some people prefer to work in a social space and feel isolated by not having the workplace interactions. It was found that more junior staff members were negatively impacted compared to better paid staff members. This was due to not have a good quality set up at home. No private office, sharing a space with other family members or friends who were also working from home and a lower quality broadband connection were all factors which made working from home more difficult during the pandemic.

Reopening the office allows for face-to-face interaction which some people previously lacked during the pandemic. It gives those with lower quality WFH spaces, chance to be productive and get their work done with minimum interruption. This means that more junior staff can progress their career and are not limited by their set up at home. They can also ask questions from their more senior counterparts. This may have been difficult in a teams meeting or a phone call.

Investing in your space will of course bring in extra costs. But, research shows that some meetings, especially staff meetings were easier to hold in person. This brought a positive social aspect to the work environment. These types of meetings were difficult to hold via video conferencing. The social aspects are also easier in person. A few drinks or a meal together at the end of the day is much easier than a video conference. Especially as video conferences often only allows for one person speaking at a time.

Cons of Returning to the Office

Support for working from home, on a personal level, comes in the form of time saved on commute. Especially for those who would usually spend anywhere up to an hour sat in queues of traffic. They found that the time they gained from skipping the commute can be otherwise spent doing things they enjoy doing. This leads to a better work life balance and therefore and increased standard of living. Spending time with family and friends and having time to focus on leisure activities proved beneficial for their work output.

On this basis there may be a dip in productivity if you decide to insist on returning to the office. You may also find people would prefer to work for a company which allows the ability to work from home. This can mean you will have to recruit replacement staff and train them up. This will increase costs for recruitment and training.

The employment market will likely be much more competitive. Some prospective candidates will be actively searching for remote jobs and avoiding those that require office-based work. Remote work is possible with companies all over the world. So, it may be harder to convince individuals to join your office-based role when a remote option is available.

The financial effect of returning to the office primarily lies with reconfiguration and new equipment for the office. Due to COVID still being a big part of our lives it’s important that you still have appropriate PPE. Sanitation of the facilities should be a high priority. This will need to be done in advance of the return and continue on a regularly once staff have returned. Upgrades may be required for certain facilities such as internet connectivity and alternative desk configurations. You need to consider what is important to your staff and their productivity. This might cost you more in the short term. It’s worth considering the benefits in the long term when your staff are back in the office and being productive.

Should you enforce a RTO?

Many companies are still weighing up the options on if returning to the office should be implemented. This is not a one size fits all decision. It’s worth taking the time to really think about how it can impact your employees and your business.

All companies are different. Whilst you are making the decision it may be worth looking at a hybrid model. These are fast becoming the new normal and provide flexibility. Careful planning and an open mind will benefit your staff and your business in the long run.

Would you like some advice on implementing a hybrid model into your workplace? Are you thinking of enforcing a return to the office and need help on how you can put this in place? Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us using the form below.

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