I have a slight trepidation whilst writing this article as I am well aware that assuming that Covid is in retreat may not prove to be right and that there is no exact science when it comes to the virus that has changed our lives so much. However with the Scottish Government calling for a phased return to the office, for those who work in them, it is important to look at how that might work and what office work might look like in the years to come. One of the things to begin to think about is that as more and people are vaccinated that the safeguards that were in place, and our approach to are more likely to be relaxed over the next few months, but of course we know that everything can change.
Over the course of the pandemic it has been clear to see that there have been both advantages and disadvantages to working from home and for many people both the idea and the reality of returning to the office present real issues that need to be dealt with.
I know from my own experience that there have been things I miss from not being in the office. They include the collective learning that comes from dealing with an issue with colleagues assistance or simply that conversations that happen more easily when we are all together in the same place.
That said, for our team at Scottish Mediation, many of whom work flexible hours it has been easier to hold virtual meetings that everyone can attend, and then to carve out the time to deal with more substantial tasks. All that has prompted us to improve our online telecom and computer capacities.
For individuals in the team there have been positives and negatives too. A new member of the team joined us late in 2020 and she definitely found it a challenge to understand the organisation and how things work. For other team members who commute into Edinburgh they have welcomed leaving behind the daily stress of using transport links and the time previously used for commuting has been capable of being deployed more effectively. But, for some the decompressing effect of that commuting time has been something that has also been missed and I know that on a personal basis I miss the mental and physical health benefits of my daily bike rides to and from work. I haven’t quite got to the stage of doing what some friends do; leaving the house; getting on the bike and leaving for work; and then following a route that takes them back to their own front door to start work.
For team members with young families the flexibility of home working has been gratefully welcomed. Not having to worry about missing a train and the knock-on impacts on picking up young ones from childcare; being able to phase work over three days instead of two because the commute isn’t there have been real benefits.
As a result of all this the idea of returning to the office is, for many, quite challenging and on top of that, for some who may have been shielding, the idea of potential exposure to Covid is still a very real issue that has to be managed.
Perhaps what will help as we manage the transition ahead is to have positive conversations about what work will look like and at the same time allow people to explore the opportunities presented by a flexible hybrid approach. I know that some of the suggestions that will arise may seem challenging when one is trying to balance the needs and interest of both the business and that people who work in it and the initial assumptions can often be misleading so it’s important to dig deeper and identify true needs and interests of all concerned and see if they can be shared.
That is sometimes not as easy as it sounds and so if you need help in having those conversations why not contact us at Scottish Mediation? We have a Register of mediators who have a range of different backgrounds and experiences that can help. You can access them via our website using our Find a Mediator page or by using our Helpline 0131 556 8118.