Working from home – one year on

We were a little ahead of the game at HWA and some early planning saw us stop working at the office just before it became a Government directive this time last year. One year on, I asked the Team to reflect on their feelings about working from home.

As expected, there were pros and cons. The social interaction of our workplace is the main thing we’re all missing. The chat whilst making a coffee or, dare I say it, the incredulity that biscuits could disappear so fast or that the dishwasher hasn’t been loaded again – these small elements of workplace life are actually far ‘bigger’ than we realised, and we took them for granted. The trips out for caramel doughnuts on your birthday or the occasional Costa if it was all getting too much are the ‘ups and downs’ that can’t be shared in quite the same way when we work remotely.

It is also the variety of work life pre-pandemic that is being missed, whether a site visit, a meeting at another workplace, ‘First Friday’ drinks or a communal walk for Sport Relief, we are now realising how these small events just made life a bit more interesting. Some essential site visits have, of course continued, with full risk assessment prior to them taking place, but the measures now needed to ensure covid safety make the whole process less enjoyable. A trip out, however, can still be a welcome escape from the ‘four walls’.

As well as social interaction, collaboration over projects, even just a minute to query something with someone else, has been missed – it can be far more time consuming to reach someone on Teams than it would be to nip upstairs and ask a colleague something face to face. Before social distancing came into our daily language, it was so much easier to pore over drawings in a group than to share them on screen. One member of our team has been a ‘lone worker’ based at our HQ, Brewery House. Although the ‘peace and quiet’ is good for focus, lack of interruption can also mean aching eyes by the end of the day as it is easy to forget to take a break.

The ‘commute’ is generally not missed, with this time being seen as bonus downtime. For some, however, the time spent travelling home from work is the de-stressor needed to feel that once home, work is left behind until tomorrow. For those with a tendency not to ‘switch off’ easily, the ‘office upstairs’ can blur the lines between home and work and may threaten a healthy work/life balance. Multiple family members all working at home may also increase the domestic workload…so back to the dishwasher debate again…

A final thought on something which is simultaneously both a good thing and a bad thing about working from home – the ease of access to cake and biscuits – I’m sure we can all relate to that one.