How to strike the right balance

As we settle back in to life post-pandemic, one of the major issues for businesses owners is how teams will work in the future – at home, in the office or a mixture of the two.

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I believe this is more than an operational decision, and a major one for any business that deserves careful consideration and an understanding of the implications. For many businessses this is not issue; staff need to be in the workplace due to the very nature of their role. But for many firms, we’ve learned over the last 18 months, many of us can work remotely.

But is this the future?

When home working was thrust upon us, we all adapted incredibly well. Video calls quickly became the norm and the words “you’re on mute” became the most common phrase in the English language. So many of us enjoyed not having the drudgery of our daily commute on the bus, train or sat in traffic, and we all enjoyed a much more relaxed way of dressing for work. It’s also clear that home working can give us a much better work/home life balance within our busy lives.
I think many employers also learned it’s OK to trust our staff. We all adapted well.
But there is a flip-side – whilst it works for some, that’s not the case for all. Some people found working at home incredibly isolating. For those fortunate to have our families around us, it was easy. But to be living and working completely alone for months must have been dreadful and it’s clear that seeing them sat around a table together sharing ideas and catching up in the kitchen. I this has taken its toll on the mental health of many people. And for those who didn’t suffer from isolation that important divide between work and home disappeared and many found they actually missed this.

Perhaps hybrid is the answer

Now we are returning to work, many employers are being asked by their staff if they will consider home working, or what we are now referring to as a ‘hybrid’ model; a mix of home and office working. This needs careful consideration and I believe we need to look at the needs of the business as well as the employee. As a business, we managed well during the pandemic. All of the team worked incredibly hard and adapted quickly. It’s clear many enjoyed home working but we also had many of the team extremely eager to return.

Keeping the connection

As an employer, I missed hearing the laughter of my colleagues, seeing them sat around a table together sharing ideas and catching up in the kitchen. I worry that for colleagues working at home, it’s easy to withdraw in to their small part of the business and lose that perspective on the bigger picture for the company. It’s also easy to for staff at home to rely on email and begin to lose contact with their colleagues. We need to understand that our working arrangements will have an impact on the culture of our businesses. This is the issue business owners need to carefully consider.
I’ve always tried to do the best for my team and be a flexible, family-friendly employer. But it’s become clear to me we missed being in the office, we need to be together working as a team. We need that energy, creativity and camaraderie.

Ian Girling

Chief Executive at Dorset Chamber, Dorset LEP Board Member, GU6 Champion

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