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To work or to not work from home, that is the question 

With restrictions continuing to lift across England and other parts of the UK many are keen to return to a sense of normality and head back into the office. The departure from home working is welcomed by those who have missed the comradery of an office environment and who’ve struggled to bounce ideas off their peers or gain different perspectives on a particular project whilst in the communal kitchen or during a quick chat at someone’s desk. Not to mention the lesser experienced team members who have not been able to work closely with their mentors and gain valuable on the job experience. Many will also be happy to see the back of the kitchen table or laptop in thebigstock 207773632 lounge, replacing the virtual Zoom and Teams meetings for the actual meeting room, and no longer trying to juggle a working day whilst home schooling or caring for their children. 

Workers returning to the city centres will help boost the profits of businesses struggling after the migration from office to home working. For the majority there is no longer a need to pop to the local cafe for a sandwich, browse the shops in your lunch hour or enlist the help of a dry cleaners for your suit. Economically speaking for these SMEs, the return to the office is very much a welcome one. 

UK and US based security firm Tessian has reported that working from home has resulted in a complacency which has left some businesses vulnerable to cyber attacks. Individuals may be less thorough with security practices when in their home environment, confidential documents are now being sent via email and remote log ins to external systems are happening much more frequently. All good reasons to return back to the safety of the office. 

With all this being said, one could assume that the collective reaction to the easing of restrictions would be one of relief and jubilation. However, when it comes to returning to office life, for some the actual response is closer to frustration, disappointment and anxiety. A number of studies and surveys carried out between 2020 -2021 found that the transition back to office life post first lockdown was a lot slower in the UK compared to other countries and that there was a reluctance to return completely, if at all -  one carried out by Cardiff and Southampton universities found that nine in ten people would actually prefer to continue working from home exclusively. 

The pandemic has dramatically reduced the amount of time people spend face to face, both socially and professionally. For those who struggle in busy environments or speaking out in public this has really helped them excel in their work without any added stress and anxiety. The thought of returning to a professional life similar to pre lockdown for them, and for those who have become desensitised over the past 18 months, may be incredibly daunting. People have become mentally fatigued after taking on added pressures such as home schooling, having a lack of physical support from friends and family and feelings with isolation and loneliness. 

The instruction to begin working from home came about very quickly and a lot were not equipped for such a transition. Employers now have the time to consider that some may need a slower introduction back to office life with an option for flexible working if possible. We found in our latest salary survey that although the vast majority of respondents were happy with how their employers handled the pandemic, 10% felt they were ineffective and could have done more. Some responded with a highly flexible and ‘family first’ attitude whereas others expected business as usual with near unachievable targets and increased working hours. The return of the commute is also very off-putting for those who have escaped the crowds on the tube or rush hour traffic since working from home. For most this extra time has been available to spend with family or on self-care but for others, according to our salary survey, there has been an expectation to use this time working. The full report of our Salary Survey 2021 can be found here

In order for employers to keep their employees happy there needs to be a compromise and some form of hybrid working needs to become available. We know this is definitely the case for a lot of the firms we work with in the Intellectual Property sector but, based on conversations with our candidates and the opinions of our salary survey respondents, it is not the case for all. In order for firms to stay competitive they will need to be open to the idea of flexible working, especially now that people have become accustomed to the idea and there is demonstrable evidence that it works with no sacrifice being made to either the level of client service and bottom line. 

- Phillipa Holland, Principal Consultant

Fellows and Associates

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