Office Working versus Home Working

Office Working versus Home Working - child's toy car on a map

June 2021

Returning to the Office vs Home Working

We’re now approaching the end of Johnson’s road map out of Covid 19. The original one suffering almost inevitable delays. So our thoughts turn to getting back to the office rather than working from home. Or do they? Are the battle lines drawn between office working versus home working? Or is it in fact more nuanced than that?

Office Working versus Home Working - child's toy car on a map

Understandable expectations

A growing expectation that the removal of all restrictions would coincide with a move away from home working and back to the office is an understandable one. 

If companies/employers have been preparing for workers to return to the office they now know they’ll have to wait a bit longer before it can happen.
Most remaining coronavirus restrictions remain in place until mid-July.

Caution needed

But a further note of caution is appropriate. Because there’s no actual statement or indication that working from home will stop when the remaining coronavirus restrictions get lifted. Official guidance remains that everyone who can work from home should still do so.

The government is due to update its guidance and further commentary on social distancing. We expect to get that guidance before the remaining restrictions reach an official end.

Speculation is rife

There’s much speculation about hybrid working and working from home being here to stay. Amongst that is a desire from employers and employees alike to keep such flexibility. Thus it’s best not to assume there’ll be an automatic rush back to the office when the remaining restrictions disappear.

The government wants to help companies that have suffered during lockdown. That includes those in city centres relying on office workers. And there’s already been some lobbying to get people back into the offices.

There’ll come a point when the populous will expect the government to clarify whether people must return to the office from the sanctity of their home environment. Thus it would be prudent to anticipate some pinch points with employers. These will occur when employers expect a return to the office but have employees wanting to stay working from home.

Many companies have already said they expect to have a mixture of staff in the office and at home. Several firms have said that workers will be able to decide what their base will be. The pandemic has shown that home-working can be effective and companies have already identified that shutting offices or reducing office space can save money.

A rise in flexible working

The whole situation may lead to an increase in flexible working requests. Though not quite the same as working from home instead of the office such requests will be a natural consequence of the situation.

Employees can ask to keep working from home, but the employer does not have to agree. That decision will depend on factors including individual circumstances and the type of job.

None of this supports any assumption that the ending of restrictions will lead to an automatic return to the office.

Points to remember

We should remember that the current guidance requires employers to:
a. complete a Covid risk assessment and … 
b. … take steps to prevent transmission. That includes:
  • Minimising unnecessary visitors
  • Ensuring 2m (6ft) social distancing, or 1m social distancing with extra precautions
  • Frequent cleaning
  • Extra hand washing facilities
  • One-way systems to minimise contact
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • Staggering start/end times

We’ve all been doing this for well over a year now and it would be advisable to remember that this is still the case until government updates its guidance . It’s worth noting that the HSE has carried more than 200,000 inspections to check companies are following Covid rules, and can force firms to take action if not.

In summary

The main message here is to await further guidance from the government. And avoid assuming there’ll be an automatic return to the office when all covid restrictions end.

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