The global Pandemic has brought about a step change in the way we view and think about office spaces and the importance of having a company function from a centralised location.
During the pandemic - more than 45% of the entire UK workforce ended up working from home. And, to the surprise of many, ~90% of that workforce would like to continue working from home in some form.
While many entrepreneurs like myself have been working from home for years - millions of people were suddenly designing makeshift desks using whatever table and chair they could quickly source. They found that working from home - far from being better or worse than working in an office - is instead intrinsically different.
I spent the first few months - quietly furloughed - listening to my friends adjust and adapt to the intricacies of it all. Whether we were furiously bidding on the last webcam left on ebay or arguing over the merits of different video conferencing apps, it didn’t take that long for the entire nation to now become well adjusted to working from home.
So it’s unsurprising that many organisations are beginning to question if they’re ever going to return to the office at all. While some industries clearly need centralised locations and others still require human interaction as part of their mentoring schemes - just as many are wondering why they ever bothered spending all that money on real estate when they didn’t need to.
5 months later, as we begin to think about working from home as a permanent feature instead of a temporary adjustment, we need to start talking about three major issues that are being thrown up by ‘Work from Home’ culture: Team Breakdown; Mental Wellbeing and Physical Wellbeing.
Humans are naturally social creatures who evolved in small groups and we identify and bond with the people that we spend time with. Organisational teams learn to rely on one another. This relies on a significant amount of trust and bonding. On top of that, some organisations cite teams as an important part of job training. Pairing newer employees with more experienced employees helps build the correct culture and teaches many of the less formalised parts of a job.
While a lot of the camaraderie and interconnectedness of a team can survive short periods away from each other - a permanent move to working from home will permanently reduce cohesion, connectedness and may lead to a slow breakdown of company culture. An increased reliance on formal Standard Operating Procedures will need to replace less formal processes that are passed on between individuals working beside one another and training new members of the team becomes a significantly more difficult job.
Organisations must focus on finding a new balance between having employees work from home and regularly bringing them together.
Breakdown in Mental Wellbeing
Working from home means most employees have significantly reduced social contact with other people day to day. This lack of interruption has been welcomed by many as it has the potential to boost productivity with properly motivated employees.
But a lack of regular social contact can have a negative effect on their mental wellbeing. Which can have long term implications for motivation, happiness and productivity. If organisations are asking employees to work from home - then a greater focus has to be placed on the sustainability of the employees situation with respect to their social contact. Organisations that are considering the mental wellbeing of their employees are being rewarded with improved worker motivation and satisfaction. These factors clearly contribute to the quantity and quality of work that the employees are producing.
Breakdown in Physical Fitness
An employee can now spend their entire day at home - never leaving their house. While this is great in the fight against the global pandemic and climate change - it is terrible for their physical fitness, especially as many gyms and traditional sporting activities are still restricted. Employees are spending long days sitting at makeshift desks on uncomfortable chairs - many are simply logging off from work and continuing to sit in the same chair for the evenings too. Regular routines, 10,000 steps a day or time spent active have been replaced with Netflix, Zoom chats and risk aversion. The growing problem of a sedentary workforce that has been creeping up on us all for the last 100 years has gone into overdrive. Physical fitness is regularly being linked to productivity and motivation at work and, much like the other issues we’ve discussed, it’s becoming more and more clear to organisations that they have a responsibility to provide opportunities to their employees to address these things.
As they say - when all you have is a hammer - then all you see is nails. And as a fitness professional - it seems to me that one method of addressing these concerns is relatively simple - and firmly within my expertise to facilitate.
Organisations should be providing regular opportunities to bring their teams together - in person - during the week. And a great reason to bring people together is to organise small, bespoke movement classes that focus on pushing back against the sedentary lifestyle most office workers find themselves trapped in. Small classes that bring team members together rebuilds cohesion - they can act as regular team building activities and they can run outdoors with physical distancing, making them feel incredibly COVID secure; or indoors - finding a new purpose for those large unused office spaces that are gathering dust in the middle of our cities.
I personally think that an exercise class should be something to look forward to. A time when you are able to socialise with others and have fun. It should be remarkable in that it is time you want to take out of your day. It should never cause you to suffer, but should instead leave you feeling well worked out and happy. That's what we strive for in our classes.
Want to know more about our unique approach to fitness? Visit our website to find out more about our ‘Back to Work’ classes.