I don’t know about you but I feel I’ve seen enough top tips and infographics about how to be productive and happy working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were useful at first as millions of people had to adjust to such different ways of working. But now it’s time to change the tune. We won’t be at home for ever. So we turned the question around to ask ‘what do you miss about working in the office?’...
1. 'Work-life' balance...
Does it sometimes feel like you’re at your laptop 24-7? There’s no clear separation between work and home. You get up, shower and get dressed, and then you’re at the laptop. Many of us don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, and those who live with others have to fight for space at the kitchen table. And that’s if there is a kitchen table. It becomes so difficult to switch off as we can’t leave our work behind us.
"I think what I miss most is having a clear definition between 'work mode' and 'home mode'. I feel like I'm switched on permanently - especially as I don't have a separate study."
2. Variety is the spice of life...
Thank you William Cowper. You summed it up perfectly in 1785 and no wonder you inspired Jane Austen and William Wordsworth. The current monotony of working from home is driving me crazy. Everything I do involves sitting in front of my laptop. Meetings, collaboration, social catchups, document reviewing, even Friday bar night is now at the Zoom Arms. There is no let up. In the office we have a variety of settings: workstations; quiet focus areas; meeting rooms; project work areas; video conference space; kitchen; breakout; informal meeting area; library; wellness room. There’s space to move around. And there’s town on our door step to go shopping at lunchtime, go to the gym or to the park for a walk. At home it is reduced to a basic triangle of laptop, fridge, toilet... How many of us are craving some variety in our lives?
I MISS “having the ease of multiple agile workspaces to get your mind into the right frame of mind for each task / meeting. I've set myself up as well as I can at home but it's not the same as having a variety of areas to choose to work in as well as top class task chairs and height adjustable desks to sit or stand at.”
Think about the variety you have in your working day... At home it is all too easy to get caught in a cycle of doing the same thing day in day out. Now think about the variety you have in the office, the spaces, the people, the random encounters that lead to a new idea. It's priceless!
3. Collectively and creatively motivating each other...
In the office there’s that sense that we’re all working together to a common goal. We can motivate each other. We are collaborative, we work collectively, bouncing ideas off each other, having impromptu catch ups. We love the visibility of being together in one place - we can easily see if someone’s there, they are not just an orange, green or red circle next to their name on the screen. And then there’s the serendipitous exchanges (I love that term!). A Teams chat message or a video call is quick and easy but it’s not the same as bumping into someone in the kitchen and asking them how their weekend was ‘and by the way, did you hear back from that client about that project?’.
When you’re working alone from home your colleagues can’t see you sitting there with your head in your hands, struggling to find a solution. In the office, looking out for each other happens naturally.
I MISS "the people the most, working in the office creates a buzz and helps keep me fully motivated. Technology is great these days, but you can't beat walking over to someone and having a conversation in person."
WE MISS “Being creative! Zoom and Teams is a great way to keep in touch and to keep communications flowing, but from a design point of view you can't beat face to face collaboration. Scribbling thoughts and ideas down. Seeing reactions. Being able to have the samples (fabrics, flooring, paint swatches) all to hand to help bring together a scheme. All of the 'touchy-feely' stuff designers live for!”
4. The human interaction...
Human beings are social animals. We crave face to face interaction and physical contact with others. We learn from each other, sharing experience and knowledge. We miss the banter and we need non-verbal cues and the subtlety of body language to give depth to our communications. Yes, some of us are more extravert and others are more introvert. But people thrive off other people. Work lunches together, breakfast chats, bake off competitions, bar nights … all those times when we are together strengthen our working relationships and our understanding of each other.
I MISS "everything about the office! However, if i had to pick one thing, it'd probably be the little chats you have with people - about work or home, it's those little interactions that can make your day!"
5. We never thought we'd say this... the commute!
The commute used to be something that most people hated. But lots of people are missing it! It has so many benefits: It creates that sense of separation between home and work; it encourages us to get some exercise by walking or cycling; we can relax and listen to music; or we can even educate ourselves with podcasts while sitting on the bus or in the car.
I MISS "walking to work in the morning, it’s a time to clear my head... I quite like the commute in for winding up and the wind down at the end of the day."
What does this mean for the office?
In the coming months and years there will be a lot of conjecture about the future of the office. Yes, video conferencing and other technologies are amazing for connecting people and avoiding unnecessary travel. And the occasional day working at home is great if you really need to get your head down. But the office must play a stronger role than ever in bringing people together, motivating them, providing a place for training and knowledge sharing, and offering the variety of spaces and functions that they need. Today’s offices with a wide range of work and social settings, and today’s working practices that offer more flexibility in terms of hours and locations, are perfectly designed to support individuals and their varying needs.
This is the blueprint that we at Interaction have been recommending to clients for years. Let’s hope a positive outcome of the current crisis is that it becomes easier for businesses to push forward with the agility and flexibility agendas.