This month, Boris Johnson laid out a plan for a significant return to normality by Christmas. As part of the government’s roadmap that has been designed to give people hope and build business confidence, employers will have the choice to bring employees back to the workplace from the 1st August.

 

Some businesses may revert to their old ways as soon as they’re able to, but others seem to have embraced the potential of home-working as a long-term viable option, to work in conjunction with or instead of office-based working. The majority of organisations that BMG supports are turning to hybrid models – or in other words, a bit of both. To that end, split-grouping strategies are proving popular, whereby employees that feel safe to return are asked to take turns to use the office.

 

One thing’s for sure, office life isn’t going to suddenly replace home-working, not for some time – perhaps not at all. And so business leaders need to consider how this new work model could affect attitude, motivation and behaviour, because it looks like we’re in it for the long run.  

 

There is evidence that your environment can affect everything from your mood to your attitude towards work. While that may be true, I’d be inclined to mix it up a little bit and say that, actually, maybe it works the other way around, too? Perhaps our attitude towards our work affects our mood, which in turn impacts the way we experience our environment –  to the point where it may look bleak one day and rosey the next?

 

Let’s cast our minds back to mid-March when most office workers were sent home. If your attitude back then was, “I’m locked in so I’m going to be bored, I’m going to go mad”, then chances are that over the last few months you’ve probably felt locked in, bored and a little bit cuckoo. Your thoughts about your environment may have directly impacted the way you experienced your environment. If, on the other hand, you saw lockdown as an opportunity to spend more time at home and to enjoy the freedom of setting your own agenda, then your environment may have felt a lot more inspiring by default.

 

I’m sure it’s a different story for those who have been juggling hective family lives with work, or for those who have been forced to work in confined spaces on uncomfortable chairs for months on end. And in reality I think we’ve all experienced an element of cabin fever, boredom and perhaps even madness, regardless of whether we were able to embrace a positive mental attitude. But what I’m trying to suggest is that if we apply a bit of positive thinking to wherever we find ourselves, then perhaps our experience of those environments would follow suit and be more positive. I believe there’s a massive opportunity here for business leaders to consider how they can help their teams make the most of their environments, wherever they may be.

 

When the UK locked down, I took the decision to set up a makeshift office at home. Normally when I work from home on an ad hoc basis I just sit up at the breakfast bar and work from there. But knowing that I was going to work from home every day prompted me to convert my spare room into an office. And so when I finish work for the day, I leave the office – and I feel like I’m “going home”. I know others who consider the kitchen table as their office, and when they get up from that table, that’s their cue to mentally detach from work.

 

I've also tried to make my day as structured as possible to mirror the workplace offering. I'll get up like I did before, I’ll shower, put on work clothes (albeit slightly more casual work clothes), I’ll take the dog for a walk, and I’ll head to the “office” when the day begins and crack on. At the end of the day, I’ll switch off the computer, go and grab the dog for a quick walk, then when I’m physically home again, I’ll feel mentally home again, like I’ve left the work world behind. What was a bedroom is now my office. And swapping my old routine for a new one has helped me balance work and play.  

 

I’m a naturally social person. I love being around others. And so I believe my attitude towards home-working has made the experience a lot more positive (it could have gone the other way!) and that certainly seems to be the case for those I work with too.

 

I know I’m lucky to have the space to do this. And I know not everyone has a dedicated workspace at home, let alone a home office, but there are ways and means to create effective work environments at home. And employers can and should help with this. BMG is actively supporting our clients in creating and managing workstations for home-based teams. For those that intend to continute to take advantage of home-working, consider delivering home office supplies and set ups to ensure every employee has what they need to create a workspace that works for them. That way, nobody is overlooked, and together we can make the most of our working environments.

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