Boris Johnson’s recent announcement that “you have got to be able to come in [to the office] … and know what everybody is talking about … otherwise you are going to be gossiped about and you are going to lose out”, has caused a mixed outpouring of bemusement, derision and mirth.
“How can anyone be that out of touch?” a mother of two from Kilburn asked me the other day.
“I don’t care what people at the office are saying about me, not when I can go for my lunch whenever I want at home, work in my comfys if I want and pick my kids up from school without feeling guilty.”
Janice certainly raises a good point about the increased flexibility and relaxation offered by a working from home lifestyle. After over a year and a half of home working, we have certainly all become rather used to our creature comforts.
So, what does this mean for the return to the office the government is so vocally prescribing? How do you tempt employees used to PJ’s and sweatpants back to an environment of “water cooler gossip” that the PM thinks so essential to development?
Home away from home
The answer, it seems is in creating a ‘home-away-from-home’ office environment.
A new study conducted by business energy retailer Love Energy savings of over 1,000 UK employees who were sometimes or always working from home during the pandemic, found that 60 per cent of people expect 3 or more-ply toilet paper in their office.
The demand for homely touches didn’t stop there. A whopping 68 per cent of the UK workers who don’t already have this perk, expect their employer to provide a variety of tea, coffee, and milk in the office if they were to return.
It seems that your standard builders brew just isn’t going to cut the mustard when workers have become used to being within reaching distance of the kitchen cupboard.
Access to cheap food at home has also sparked new or perhaps inflated demand for free or highly subsidised meals or snacks to be provided by their employer. Half (49 per cent) of the UK workforce now expecting this.
A solid 52 per cent of UK employees also want a dedicated well-being zone in the office to help them relax and unwind and 45 per cent, a dedicated safe space to enjoy meals, snacks, or drinks.
If we only look at the respondents who don’t already have these in place, an enormous 80 per cent of UK employees expect to have a stress-free place to eat in the office.
It looks as though the space given to us at home to eat in peace is much more attractive than the return to food censorship and judgment (no tuna sandwiches allowed).
Lori Rassas, an SPHR-certified Human Resources consultant and author of It’s About You Too, thinks employers and the government should take these demands seriously however:
“The pandemic provided so many employees with the time to reflect about their work-life balance. These reprioritizations are already leading to a war on talent, where employers are working to both retain and recruit top talent to replace those employees who opt to move on to new opportunities.
“In this type of environment, it is going to be increasingly important for employers to ensure their employees are open about their wants and needs, so they have the opportunity to determine whether they can address them.”
Love energy’s research revealed that many of the concerns held by employees reluctant to return to the workplace were far more serious than their office kitchen offering oat milk.