The pros and cons of returning to the workplace, is it time?

The pros and cons of returning to the workplace, is it time? Listing Image

Over recent weeks we’ve received an increase in candidate registrations with many citing that they are now looking for other career options due to their employer changing working from home and hybrid arrangements to more time in the office. This shift is becoming increasingly prolific across the travel industry, but with a spike in resignations at the same time, we must ask – is this counter-productive?

A new way of working

On the 16th of March 2022, Boris Johnson announced the first lockdown of the pandemic, and the world of office work changed forever. Businesses that had previously deemed homeworking impractical, granting the privilege to only those with extenuating circumstances, found a way to make it work within 24 hours. And it did work. A 2022 study by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that of the 23% of businesses that intended to keep a permanent homeworking or hybrid model, 42% of those cited increased productivity as the primary reason. 

Whilst many of our lockdown habits have now ceased, the idea of remote and flexible working prevails. With employees anyway. The same study found that 82% of employees who worked from home during the pandemic planned on continuing to do so permanently. As the ONS study illustrates, employers are, overall, less keen. So, who will (and should) win this standoff?

A case for the office 

Why are many employers so insistent on a return to the workplace? There is definitely a case to be made for collaboration and teamwork. Solving a problem can take much less time when you have a willing ear sitting next to you, available for a casual discussion. Setting up a call on Teams can seem much more formal or feel intrusive on someone’s time. 

Particularly relevant to the travel industry is the argument for fostering a positive company culture and creating a sense of community within the workplace. This can be difficult to achieve when everyone is behind a screen at home. 

And, of course, from an employer’s perspective, there’s the monitoring and accountability element. Not every employee is as self-motivated and honest as the next, and hands-on management and evaluation may be required at times. 

Benefits of homeworking 

The previously mentioned ONS study found that 78% of those able to work from home over the pandemic found a better work-life balance, 52% reported that they completed their work more quickly, and 53% said that they had fewer distractions. 

Many of our candidates have also told us that their mental and physical health improved as a result of ditching the commute and that their relationships with friends and family members have improved, thanks to having more downtime. Surely happier, healthier employees are a benefit to any business? 

And it’s not just employees that stand to gain from remote or hybrid working. Employers can recruit from a larger pool if they’re not just limited to those within commuting distance of the office. Also, from a bigger-picture perspective, fewer employees commuting into the office reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. 

Although team managers might get twitchy about productivity and what’s actually going on when employees are working from home, as long as the work still gets delivered to a high standard, does it really matter? Just like the days of full-time office work, if an employee is not meeting the expectations of their role, appropriate action will be taken.

The travel industry reality 

We’ve discussed the heavy candidate-driven nature of the travel jobs industry in previous blogs – on that basis, it seems highly counter-intuitive that many travel businesses are still insisting on a full-time office presence. Every candidate we speak to today is looking for at least a hybrid working situation. This would still allow businesses to cultivate that all-important company culture and allow plenty of opportunity for collaboration. 

The preferred protocol from our candidates seems to be three days at home and two days in the office. This model would suggest that hot desking would be the best setup for offices, reducing the amount of office space needed and, as a result, a reduction in overheads.  

The bottom line is, as the market stands at the moment, any travel business insisting on full-time office hours is going to struggle to recruit, even if the salary offered is competitive. And those that do offer flexible working will have their pick of candidates.

Likewise, any business increasing days in the office or implementing a change to the current hybrid arrangement will certainly notice a dip in productivity, employee satisfaction and retention. Those guilty of such moves should be prepared for employees jumping ship to businesses who embrace hybrid working, commit to it contractually and work to meet the wants and needs of the employee.

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