By Brett Hill, distribution director, Towergate Health & Protection
For many office workers, ‘going to work’ does not just mean going to do work, it means to go and be a part of a common space, with people who share similar objectives, in an experience that is distinctly separate from the rest of life.
There are some people who merely enjoy the sense of separation that a purpose-built office offers; going home at the end of the day is a decisive shut door on the working day in a way merely getting up from your home office chair and going into a different room is not. For others, the office is more than just a dividing line.
The sense of togetherness is something people particularly express that they miss now that most office workers have transitioned to home working; the impromptu tea breaks, going to ask a colleague a quick question but also, more explicitly, social events and office parties.
Going to work, post-work drinks and office socials are seen by many employees as life events as well as work events. Work is not just something to complete and get out of the way but is socially fulfilling and something to give further meaning and purpose to life.
This is why employers need to utilise a variety of techniques right now to ensure that they are engaging all employees and meeting a raft of differing needs. This may be in the form of creative ways to meet online, but it may also involve providing mental health support and a structured wellbeing programme. It may be as simple as offering the opportunity for employees to speak to someone independent, for counselling or guidance. Or they may need advice or benefits to ensure they are financially secure.
Employers must be open to an array of supportive measures, mixed and matched to suit the physical and emotional needs of each employee, depending on their individual circumstances.
To keep employees from feeling disengaged, from suffering with the mental struggles of working from home, or from worrying about the impact of returning to the office, employers need to ask a simple question: ‘What does the office mean to you?’