After more than a year of using kitchen worktops as desks and only seeing colleagues in remote meetings, more people are now preparing to return to the office.
Others meanwhile are negotiating more flexible working options with their employer, or perhaps looking to work from home permanently.
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A recent survey found that Gen-Zs aged 24 and under are particularly likely to want a full-time working from home solution, while Millennials aged between 25-34 are the most likely to consider taking a pay cut in return for increased flexibility from their employer, according to the findings from financial services firm, Hitachi Capital UK.
Whatever working options employees are looking for, it pays to be prepared. While many people will welcome the opportunity to separate their home and office lives once more, Stephen Warnham, a jobs expert at TotalJobs.com, says returning to the office after so much time working from home is a "daunting prospect for many".
Warnham says: "No employer is going to be able to deliver on every employee’s preferred way of working, but some staff may need specific support to ensure they can continue to feel like they can bring their whole, most productive self to the office – whether it’s support with childcare flexible hours, or health concerns.
"It’s therefore crucial that all employees feel that they can express their preferences, and that their employer is committed to listening, and delivering fair and clear plans for the return to the office."
Here are some tips to help employees make the transition – whether it’s back to the office, hybrid working. or permanent homeworking…
1. Understand your employer’s plans and check your contract
TotalJobs' ‘hiring trends index’ found that, before the end of this year, 39% of businesses plan to implement in-person meetings, events or working practices, and 31% expect to employ or review a long-term flexible working policy.
If you’re not aware of your employer’s plans, be proactive in setting up a meeting with your manager and think about revisiting your contract to make sure it still works for you.
2. Make sure your preferences are heard
Knowing and voicing your needs will be central to a smooth transition, so once you know what your actions your employer is planning, take a step back, understand how they align with your personal priorities, and think about what would make your work life easier and more productive.
That may mean asking your employer for assistance with creating a home office space if an element of remote work will continue for you, or securing a season ticket loan if you will be returning to the office.
3. Understand your own and your colleagues’ boundaries
Inevitably, things will feel different if you head into the office for the first time after a long period working from home. Your manager or HR team should be there to support this transition and make you feel comfortable in raising any concerns. Even though Covid-19 restrictions have been reduced, this doesn’t mean everyone is instantly happy to return back to ‘normal’.
Be aware of others’ levels of comfort, as well as what works for you. It might be that some people continue to keep a distance, while others are happy to shake hands with colleagues again. Make sure you strike the right balance and if you’re not sure, ask.
4. Keep balance, structure and routine front and centre
As the working week changes, make sure you keep a clear routine and balance to your days. If you are returning to the office some days a week, where you can, focus on collaborative projects while in person, and save your remote days for tasks you can complete by yourself. Regardless of when and where you are working, make sure you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
It can sometimes be hard to switch off when homeworking, but try to incorporate a clear break from work into the end of your working day – whether it’s going to the gym or reading a chapter of a book – in order to refresh your mind and help you ease out of work mode.
5. Keep learning and developing your skills
Research found that three in five (61%) employees are interested in developing their skillset to become more employable candidates but are unsure where to start.
As we move to a new way of working, it’s a prime opportunity for you and your employer to re-focus on your professional development, whether it’s embedded into your role or through an accessible, free online course. You’ll develop new skills, improve your day-to-day work, and ultimately, enhance your future job prospects.