Do I have to go back to the office?

Lockdown is beginning to ease across the UK. More people are being encouraged to go back to work. But what if you are happier and more productive working from home?

These unprecedented times has accelerated the use or implementation of digital platforms. Quoting the Financial Times €œmillions of Americans are taking part in an unprecedented experiment in working from home€. Apply this to the UK as well and there are millions more.

Are you thinking “I never want to return to the office”, do you want a happy medium between working from home and the office, or are you itching to get back into the office environment?  

Working from Home

The current government advice to work from home overrides employment contracts requiring us to go to work.

However, Simon Rice-Birchall, an employment law specialist from Eversheds Sutherland, is of the opinion that it would be difficult for an employer to force individuals to return to the office if they have shown that they can work efficiently from home.

Some people who enjoy working online are reaching new levels of productivity without meetings or office chit-chat. Additionally, those who want to reduce their carbon footprint are certainly doing so by not commuting to work. This is especially if they used to have to drive to the office.

Further benefits people have experienced is a better work-life balance could be achieved by working from home, or time and money saved from not commuting.

With huge corporations, including Twitter, announcing that their employees can permanently work from home if they wish, this preference could become a reality. Further, numerous companies have reported allocating money to employees to buy what they need for their home office.

Yet, it is important to remember that it is mostly white-collar office workers who can work from home. This is not an option for all professions. Additionally, a huge number of UK professionals are furloughed or have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

Office Environment

Researchers have warned that creativity and problem-solving skills are significantly reduced when working individually. Working from home could also trigger feelings of isolation or the idea that people cannot escape their work. Further, employees may be working longer hours because the resources are at their fingertips.  This is especially because organisation’s are trying to maintain business continuity in this time of uncertainty.

Many enjoy the community of an office. They can be social and feel heard rather than being stuck behind a computer screen.

Social distancing also needs to be adhered to. Yet, this would not necessarily prevent the benefits of the office environment being realised.

However, Rice-Birchall believes that those who are told to go in to work will not be entitled to sick pay if they choose to stay at home because they are afraid of contracting coronavirus.

More worryingly, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has heard reports of employers forcing people to work which has effects on physical and mental wellbeing. They report that any return to work needs to be necessary, safe and mutually agreed.

A Balance

Rice-Birchall expects a rise in employment disputes between employees who do not feel safe at work and employers who do not believe that they can work from home.

Do you plan to ask for a balance between working in an office or from home? Would you like to have more a choice in where you can work? This is definitely food for thought as lockdown restrictions are easing.

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