Feb. 14, 2022

"Back to Office" Isn't Living Up to Employees' Expectations

Employees expect the in-office side of hybrid work to help foster culture, collaboration, and higher productivity--but that isn't always happening. This week, Ryan and Heather discuss how office workers are feeling about their workspaces in 2022.


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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In the series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines. The problems they're facing, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took. That'll help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

Heather Bicknell 0:29
Hey, Ryan, Hey, how are you? I'm good. How are you?

Ryan Purvis 0:35
I'm not too bad. Thanks. Not too bad. But you also did or not yet?

Heather Bicknell 0:42
Yeah, we got a good pile of snow. So we're trying to take advantage of it. Probably about eight inches, I think is what they said but, and going sledding and ready to go across the Apache cross country. You can tell us early I can't speak at cross country skiing this morning. Or this weekend, rather. But all the rentals were taken together like half an hour after open and they were already matched up and also the Olympics that I've inspired people to it's kind of the first opportunity you could go do rentals faux pas are better. But yeah,

Ryan Purvis 1:25
so So when you say rentals What are you renting?

Heather Bicknell 1:30
The ski equipment so skis boots, Polo. Okay, apparently if you want to buy that stuff, you have to do it in like October because we did go and see what would it be like to go to a sporting store and they were completely wiped out

Ryan Purvis 1:50
it's almost like when the pandemic started all the things that people needed to obtain their kids got bought, like in the first week in a jumper liens and, and a whole bunch of those sorts of toys. You know, lockdown, everything online was bought. So, are you are you at home? Are you are you traveling?

Heather Bicknell 2:12
I got home, I just I just finished a workout. So I will be camera

Ryan Purvis 2:23
about that stuff at the dirtiness to be insulting. But I just sort of call now was one of the guys who just finished his work. And he also said, I'm not going to my camera and I just finished a workout. And I was like, well, it's okay. I mean, I have no no SKOM no shame. You know, if we're gonna call abscission workout, then I'll sit down or sweat while we talk. But each their own I guess. So a couple articles we've discussed this week. But maybe tell you what maybe start with will never return to the office to say to fits in the staff. That one. And then the other one, which which I sent you today was employees returning to the opposite disappointed because they kind of linked together. Check. Sounds good. So the first one, I thought this was interesting purely because they they were finding that it was a survey they did. And a good amount of staff for saying that they just need to go back. And this was in the in the times. The UK, UK times. And the research was done by YouGov, which is the government survey thing. They found, not surprisingly, that the majority and we're talking 71% of people prefer to work from from home, and 58% believe they're more productive when they did. And they were this quarter of a quarter of the people surveyed had returned to work part time. But they still found that of that of that percentage 63% Almost again, a majority said they actually found it more productive to work remotely, not necessary work from home to work remotely.

Heather Bicknell 4:13
One thing that this article did make me curious about is regional, country to country differences in remote work and in office work both what the split is like now, what company's attitudes are towards training people back and then what employees themselves want in the long term. But I guess you know, that seems pretty. I feel like most of the surveying, I've seen about preferences for working from home tends to be in that 60 to 70 Odd range. So it's interesting I guess to see that reflected in January 2022. Because I think a lot of that polling is from earlier, you know, maybe midway 2021, kind of before the wave of back office was supposed to start.

Ryan Purvis 5:18
Well, remember, the UK has been trying to get back to normal inverted commas for a while now. You know, barring the sort of faux pi in December, when they had listed a few countries, they were still, they were still telling people to go to work. And they did do work from home order. But even then, it was it was a recommendation, it wasn't a an instruction, like it was during the actual pandemic, what were the main the main thrust of it? What What was interesting for me out of this article, is this, there's always been a push to get everyone back into the cities to go and work but not really for the benefit of the people doing the commute, to go to an office to sit on the phone all day, but more for the sort of the sort of businesses that are reliant on that foot traffic. So you're, you're big property owners that own the buildings. Yeah, the businesses that pay those, those leases, and then the the smaller businesses involved, they're sort of your sandwich shops, your coffee shops, your you know, all those jobs that are related to that. That was that was the thrust of the push to get people back. But it's almost it's almost a senseless push, because the people doing the actual work, don't benefit from for me those things really, per se, they're spending time away from home the screen time. You know, being tired commuting. And that's what I find interesting. This is this article really expressed the balance between the two sort of counter counter proposals, if you like, on going back to the old ways.

Heather Bicknell 7:05
Yeah, I think another interesting color in this article was that 74% of Tory supporters prefer working from home that labour are equally as likely as conservatives to prefer to work from home that it's so it has to to universal appeal that it feels more like, you know, workers versus just the company itself that this is where the push pull.

Ryan Purvis 7:40
Yeah, I don't think I don't think the politics in this case really mad. I mean, I guess the reason why they point that out, is because the current government is Tory or conservatives. And, and the biggest, the biggest opposition party is labour. But I don't think turning politics and having an influence on an accepted, obviously, the government is pushing for the return. We're this sort of, at where I've always thought you had to go back into the offices and they do mention here that the peak, the peak days of the week, or the the Tuesday, the Wednesday and Thursday, which doesn't surprise me. Because, you know, even even in the old days, people used to always take the Friday's and work from home day. And it makes sense, you know, your long weekend. And you can save yourself two hours of travel. Especially when you clashing with people traveling with tourists and the rest of traveling into London. You do want to avoid that stuff and get the last little bit of you know, good weather with your kids or whatever it is. What was interesting, and what I always thought was would be the case is people wanted to get into the office to collaborate. But the other article that I showed you this morning, kind of says that that's not working either. So so people are thinking, well, I come into the office to collaborate with with my peers, but they're just spending the time at the office on the phone with people that other offices or other locations who haven't come into the office, and they're not really getting the collaboration that they thought they're gonna get unless they booking a dedicated workshop, or something like that. Because it's not it's not as simple as made up to be.

Heather Bicknell 9:26
Yeah, I think that is the type of trap of hybrid and getting the hybrid model right is that it really is almost and this is all you know, thinking it through in theory, but if you're not orchestrating it to a point where you would have certain employees in coming in at the same time to be able to take advantage of say like a team meeting in person If you're not coordinating any of the collaborative or like activity based elements of coming back, you are, it is just kind of like your office is a coffee shop, or it kind of gets default turned into a, like a Wii work or something like that. Because if it's not the coordination of employees is one thing and team. The other thing is, are you redesigning your office to support that to people still have their old kind of one to one desk model where they, you know, could be sitting alone at their old desk, on the other side of the office from the few people who chose to come in that day. So there's a lot of, I could see how it could easily default to just everyone being on the call still, and not really feeling like there's much advantage to going in, besides maybe some peace and quiet depending on your home.

Ryan Purvis 11:11
But what exactly, I mean, I'll be honest, I, I've sat down, I thought there's a couple times a week, but I've just wanted to go somewhere different and work. And if I had an office to go there, I'd probably do got pretty good that day, even if there's no one there that I need to see. But to have, you know, maybe a break from home, the adventure of traveling out. I mean, I was I was in office last week with a lot of bills deferred for a day, it was just nice. Yeah, different people, different things to talk about. But they weren't, they weren't my work colleagues. But they were at a shared working space and just gave me a bit more stimulation. So I could see that working. But, you know, this, this article is talking also about how the culture of the business, you know, pre pre work from home versus now hasn't changed. And I think that's going to be another thing that that will be surprising to some, they might expect that by going back, it'll be more improved, because everyone's gonna realize they appreciate the office or not. And it's more on the north side.

Heather Bicknell 12:21
Yeah. Another just another hypothesis, I guess. But in terms of the percent of people, the 61%, who hoped for many more in person collaboration, when they went back to the office, there's a gap only 49% actually report experiencing more cooperation. And I think, I almost wonder how much the working this way has changed people, behaviors, when it comes to speaking with colleagues throughout the day, or going over and maybe interrupting someone, or even just having more chitchat, if we've kind of just the level of that has lowered and we're used to this new baseline, and people just continue to work in those habits that they built up.

Ryan Purvis 13:18
Yeah, I can really, I can definitely see that. I mean, I get a you've just made sure you got off a workout, you know, another person under spending is just got a full workout. So so that, that just that flexibility of I'm gonna go do I'm gonna go squeeze in 30 minutes now. And I mean, I've been using Apple fitness again. So now I've got the more options, I've a squeeze in a quick workout. I've got this call in 30 minutes. So I can do my workout I'll in the work a little bit early, I'll join the call, I'll do my stretching while I'm on the phone, sitting in my lounge. And, you know, once that's done, I'll go and have a shower, and I'm ready for this minute. You can't really do that if you're in the office. And like my wife was coming now she says take my centers to Australia, listen, if I was in the office, and she needed to talk to me about like, you'd have to find me which of which would disturb me. Or she couldn't get hold of me, which means a message or something. So you end up with creating a stress, which I think is also something that people that these kids are, are more appreciative of, because they're at home or near a home because they're working at a satellite office, rather than one that they had to get to. That's a big factor too. So I think that's that's something to the technology has given us this this gift of working anyway, anytime, any device, and it almost it's counter counter intuitive to to not do it that way.

Heather Bicknell 14:50
Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, we've we've proven that it is effective. I've also seen people There's, you know, there's also an idea that if we're all working from home, what does that mean for advancement and kind of visibility? Could it hurt your prospects towards things like promotion? And I think there are unanswered questions there. But I've seen people challenge that as kind of a, a given as well. But it is it are it, I think those scenarios are kind of besides, you know, those collaborative opportunities, I still think about things like people who are just joining the workforce, or people who might not be as visible and could miss out on things like promotion, for not being in person, or kind of just the other. The other ways, we were kind of trained to work around the office that maybe don't translate as well, remotely.

Ryan Purvis 16:12
Yeah, look, I think I think a lot of organizations we promotions are subjective, and not objective, or recognition. In some respects, I think having everyone distributed, has made it easier for me to see. And for my personal experience, now, how effective someone actually is doing what they do, and in the same time, ineffective, whereas you could have a whole bunch of people in office, and you're not going to watch what they're doing, because you see them at your desk and you that almost ticks the box, that they're working as an SME that working more effectively or more efficiently. But because, you know, most of my team is remote. And I say that because I do know, some guys go to an office a couple times a week, I've got to reach out to them, ask them what they're doing and how they're doing and all that sort of thing. So yeah, it's for me been better, I think that there are tools. And ways to me we've had a couple people talk about on the podcast, where the way they've handled, handled the differently, which I think is good. And, you know, a morning check in daily scrum. You know, just just in some messaging chats, you know, just keeping in touch with, you know, various people with different life situations, you know, guys buying houses, selling houses, that sort of, you know, having kids that sort of thing. And, and having that flexibility that they can just join a call at the hospital or, or chat that they can't join a call because something happened and they're on the run. I think that's that's made it a more human interaction. Whereas in some organizations I've worked in, you know, the, the thought that you get up from your desk to go to rush home, was almost you get almost a funny look before you left. For people watching you leave, even though even though you know, your team is fine with it. So I think I think those things have have been taken out of the equation, which makes the security of working from home that much better. And also think, you know, if you've got the means that I think they are the people that don't have the means so so going to the office makes sense for them. And I'm not saying they shouldn't go or shouldn't have an office to go to. But if you've got the means and you can work from home, you probably find your equipment, your setup, all that stuff, is better suited to what you want to do anyway. I think that's a factor too.

Heather Bicknell 18:39
No, definitely. I was just thinking about how we're talking about the idea that that presenteeism, just being visible and your boss assuming that you're working because you're at your desk. How the we've exchanged that for the chat message, or chat. activity status. So if you're on teams, you know, you have that green bubble, if you're on Slack, you have a similar green bubble. You can set different statuses if you're, you know, away or do not disturb or whatnot. But that's what we have now to say, is someone actively sitting at their desk there's been a lot I've seen a lot of just joking. Content where people are, like wiggling their mouth or, like, I think there's still there's still some of that presenteeism, you know, whether or not people are paying as much attention because you're not going to I would I would hope no boss that that was staring other teams that is all day making sure they're green?

Ryan Purvis 20:04
No, no look, I mean, I know I've been on a few group chats with guys explain how the ways that the ways they've gone to make themselves look like they're busy the whole day and working from delayed emails to buy, really, there's actually a USB stick you can buy as you plug in, and that'll trigger your mouse for you, every 15 minutes, I mean, you got it, you got to admit this, there's some or at least sends a signal that your mouse is moving. And that actually was the technical solution, because the VPN will kick you off. If there wasn't activity regularly or something I got 100 exactly what the situation was. So our people, they're gonna, they're gonna take liberties. And you know, we've all had days where you're in the office or at home where you you haven't worked a full day because of various things, personal stuff that's going on. And that's, that's also okay, because there's days we work 1415 hours and either way, you still get paid the same. And I think there's a there's a level of that, but that people have to what's the word? give themselves a break with that. It's, it's not all just because you work from home and you've got the extra three hours a day doesn't mean you're you have to work those three hours either. Sometimes you do, because you're in the flow. But it shouldn't be an expectation from anyone that you that's only working during that time.

Heather Bicknell 21:30
Yeah. I mean, I think that I feel like it I'm sure varies company to company and, and whatnot. I think that being flexible and kind of having the permission or trust to get, you know, to take advantage of that flexibility to just make your life a little bit less stressful. I think there's a general acceptance of that. That was a really positive outcome of our, our that.

Ryan Purvis 22:12
Yeah. I mean, we No, no wish pandemic again. But I think some of the some of the things have been better. made things better for for us, generally speaking. And I think one of those things, which would be to work for us, is the technology uplift. Across the board, I think that'll just make things easier. There was a headline today for the South African schools or going back in as normal. But I know there will be no more because I think what will happen is, you know, the, the infrastructure that's been improved, because of having to work remotely, there will still it will still improve education systems. And I think they'll be the same in many other places.

Heather Bicknell 22:59
Yeah, I mean, even even just the amount that Google Docs changed things, and more kids having devices in school, and this was like, I don't know, a decade ago, can only imagine how, with all of these virtual learning tools, the kids are just very advanced in their ability to take advantage of that technology by this point. So the kids in South Africa hadn't been back to in person schooling yet. That's the new.

Ryan Purvis 23:39
Yes. So we'd back in today, what they'd been doing last year was the dude ultimate days. And that was just to reduce obviously, the spread of the virus and all that stuff. So you'd have situations where kids would be at home the whole week, or that come in every other day, like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or something like that. And in order to do that, the hairstylist to make the technology work for them. So there's been quite a few platforms built and delivered last year. So that's been quite positive to see. The big challenge, obviously, with all of that is a lack of equipment in the poorer schools. And I'll be honest, that, you know, in those cases, they're just, they've just ignored the COVID requirements and just gone to school, which is good, you know, they've got the education. And to be fair, the the sort of infection rate here has been so low for so long. I think their risks were not that great. But I'm not a doctor. So don't quote me on this. But But I think yeah, as I say, the the thing they make the school today, I think the important thing for for kids in school is the social skills. And I think you made that point earlier that we've lost our social skills. I'm not going back to the office. I think that's where it's it's good to go back to the office at least if you could meet some of your some of your colleagues face to face and get to know them. The humans is important. Whether say it should be an adventure, not forced on your requirement.

Heather Bicknell 25:20
Yeah, no, I think there's a right way to go in and a fourth way that that really doesn't make any sense to make people do. All right, you need to tap here. Yeah.

Ryan Purvis 25:36
Are we good? That was great. Okay. Super. Alright, thanks for that. We'll check you soon.

Heather Bicknell 25:43
Okay, thanks. Bye. Bye.

Ryan Purvis 25:50
Thank you for listening to today's episode. And the big news, our producer editor. Thank you, Heather for your hard work on this episode. He subscribes to the series and rate us on iTunes at the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW W podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai