A few weeks ago, the Irish government announced easing of COVID restrictions and gave the green light for a phased return to the office from 20 September 2021. As a result of this, thousands of workers began returning to offices across Ireland this week.
In a bid to help with the reopening process for my company, I actually volunteered to go back into my office a few months earlier and wrote about it on LinkedIn. My post was met with mixed reactions as some people were skeptical about the need for physical offices while others echoed my excitement of returning back.
Since I started going into the office, I have now developed a bit of a hybrid routine where I go into the office 2 or 3 times every week and have found that this has worked quite well for me. I know that a lot of people are anxious about going back into the office and a lot of others feel that working from home has been much better for them but I wanted to share my own experience and why I was excited to return to the office.
Before I delve into the reason why I am a proponent of returning to the office, I want to clarify that my overarching view is that, in a post-COVID world, employees should be able to decide what suits them best based on their role and personal circumstances. Some people may want to continue working from home while others may want to adopt a hybrid model like me. In any case, we have now seen that remote working is a viable option for a lot of individuals so businesses need to trust their employees to get the work done while recognizing the fact that the same working arrangements may not be appropriate for everyone.
That being said, here are some reasons why I was personally excited to have the option to return to the office after working from home for almost 18 months:
Being able to set boundaries
One of the things that I personally struggled with while working from home was that I was unable to set boundaries for myself. Throughout the pandemic, I felt that the lines between work and life became quite blurred for me. I would often find myself working late into the evenings or logging in after dinner to respond to those last few email. Being able to go into the office allows me to set boundaries for myself because, in my head, I am done with work when I walk out of the office! I am almost retraining my brain to realize that the office is for working and the home is for living!
More flexibility to manage my schedule
This point may seem a bit counterintuitive to common perception, however, I feel that I have a lot more flexibility when I have the option to work from either the office or from home. Being bound to my home for the last 18 months made me feel like my flexibility had actually been taken away. I personally want to have the option to go into the office in case there is something going on at home or, vice versa, have the option to work from home if I feel that I will be more productive there. For me, working from home has different benefits when compared to working from the office so I want to be able to choose where I work on a particular day based on my schedule.
Access to office facilities
Offices are made for working and, hence, have all the necessary facilities needed to do our jobs. During the pandemic, I often missed having a printer at home and occasionally struggled with the wi-fi which would sometimes become over-burdened when someone was watching YouTube or Netflix (or both!) while I was trying to do a video call.
Over the last 18 months, the biggest struggle for me though was that I was sharing my home office with my 2 young kids and there was never a ‘right time’ to do a call or have a quiet session to think through things. Returning to the office has made me realize how important facilities such as meeting rooms, quiet spaces, dedicated work stations, printers, stationary, reliable wi-fi and even good coffee are for me to do my job efficiently.
Meeting colleagues in person (No more Zoom fatigue!)
I feel that this is probably one of the most important factors that will convince more people to return to the office. While a lot of people still want to continue working from home, however, I am pretty sure that almost all of us have missed the social interactions that the physical workplace has to offer. A lot of people I have spoken to over the past few months want to come into the office just to be able to meet their colleagues in person. The never-ending Zoom calls have definitely taken a toll on us all so having the option to collaborate with others in person is a good incentive to go into the office once in a while.
The above points are based on my personal experience and I realize that working from the office may not be the right thing for everyone. If there is one thing that we have all learned in the last 18 months, it is that different people have different working styles and prefer different working arrangements. So, I feel that the hybrid model of working is perhaps the way forward for most employees and companies.
By allowing employees to choose where/how they work, businesses may perhaps pave the way for a more engaged workforce… This, though, remains to be seen!
About the author:
Faraz Hasan is a Chartered Accountant with over 15 years of experience in accounting, finance, auditing and assurance. He is a father to 2 boys and is currently based in Dublin, Ireland. You can learn more about him through his LinkedIn profile.