How do people feel about returning to the office?

The pandemic transformed how we all worked overnight. At StarLeaf, our office in Watford, UK, went from bustling to empty overnight. But we may soon be able to start going back.

March 25, 2021

In the UK, we’re all still in lockdown for the moment. We’re working in home offices, bedrooms, at kitchen tables. But restrictions are gradually easing. It’s time to start thinking about the return to the office.

I spoke to some of my colleagues at StarLeaf about what’s changed for them this year, where and how they’d prefer to work in future, and what they think is important. Here’s what they said.

Hybrid from now on

Living close to the office, Max Herman, Product Manager at StarLeaf, used to go in to work five days a week. But with his partner living in Bristol, Max found he was travelling there most weekends. It was expensive and time consuming. ‘I started the conversation about working remotely from Bristol before the pandemic, but we just weren’t ready yet.’ Max says there wasn’t really a culture of working from home in his team, and he needed to be there in person for the project they were developing at the time.

‘The pandemic has really changed the culture around working from home. We proved that we could do it,’ Max says. He has recently moved to Bristol, and plans to travel to Watford for a couple of days in the office every few weeks. ‘I really like working in the office, and I even miss my commute, but this means I can keep the job I love and live where I want to.’ Max adds that while the pandemic has been a catalyst for his move, it wasn’t really the cause. ‘I was talking about working remotely before Covid, and I think I would have been able to reach a remote working agreement without the pandemic. But it definitely sped things up.’

Just take me back

Mital Patel, Inside Sales Representative, cannot wait to go back to the office – five days a week if possible. ‘I live in a big household, and when I’m working from home, it’s really hard to create any separation between work life and family life.’ Mital finds that she faces a lot of interruptions, which wouldn’t happen if she were in the office. Working from her bedroom, Mital is also finding it hard to switch off. It’s just too easy to read one more message or send one more email.

Mital is also really missing the social side of the office. ‘When you’re making calls, it’s really motivating to hear everyone else getting on the phone. And hearing the way they talk gives you ideas so you can have better conversations’. Mital also says that training new joiners has been a challenge during the pandemic. While teams have been keeping in touch over video, ‘people aren’t getting to know each other across the company.’ Without the incidental conversations in the kitchen and the corridors, relationships across different teams can suffer.

The management perspective

George Horn, Head of People at StarLeaf says that from a management perspective, his biggest priority is that companies continue to care for their staff. ‘And that means everything: safety in the office and at home, showing understanding for people’s circumstances, making sure everyone is connected and has someone they can talk to.’

George says the meaning of the office is changing, too. We all know we can get stuff done perfectly well from home, so the office won’t just be rooms full of workstations. ‘We want to make the office somewhere exciting and attractive for people to come and collaborate, and build those in-person relationships.’

Although there are still plenty of questions about when and how we’ll be able to return to the office, George predicts that StarLeaf, and plenty of other companies, will move towards a hybrid working model. We’ll still get the benefits of gathering in person, with the newfound flexibility of remote working options.

Wherever you’re working, StarLeaf can help.

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Clare Cavenagh, Graduate Content Marketing Executive