A grown-up approach to flex

As a survey shows that people chatting in the office affects productivity, it’s a good moment to talk about the pros and cons in all the different ways of working.

Employee works from home


A new survey last week highlighted one of the downsides of working in the office. It made a change from all the focus on the potential negatives of home or hybrid working. It showed 58% of all desk workers in the UK don’t feel productive at work, with chatty colleagues, internet issues and other people’s mobile phones coming as top work disruptors.

If you work mainly remotely you come to the office with a kind of outside-in perspective. While chattiness is nice after being at home with no-one to talk to but the cat, it can mean that you get very little done in a day. That’s not to say that chattiness doesn’t have its place and many of us missed it during the lockdown. Online meeting after online meeting can get a bit soulless as there is little time for catching up on the personal stuff that is the grift of relationships. You can achieve that when you work remotely, of course, through chat functions etc, but it may not be as regular as when you are in the office full time. There are, though, many different ways to build relationships and sometimes the office chat can be counterproductive.

I know people who resort to wearing headphones in the office, not because they are tuned into the latest webinar, but just so they can stop people talking to them and shut out the background noise. Maybe it’s all the more noticeable after many of us have spent months working on our own during Covid.

I’ve worked in a hybrid way for many years. The office has changed a lot in that time. When I first worked in journalism there was a lot of bustle and chat all the time. I remember the deputy editor of my first local paper bringing her twins into the office and trying to work while they did music practice! People would talk about the stories they were working on. They’d go to the pub regularly. Now no-one has time, they’re chained to social media and local papers have been cut back so much that it’s all hands on deck. Fast forward a few years – before Covid – and I’d go into the office and no-one would speak. They’d all be listening to music or something with their heads down. It was a bit disconcerting as I was relishing a good conversation which probably came across as a bit annoying.

Now all the people in the office I go into are on online calls and meetings, but there’s definitely more chat in between, particularly at times like Christmas. And there’s lots of cake. It would be lovely if I didn’t have so much to do. At home, I just rattle through the list of things. For my in the office day I factor in that I won’t get as much done no matter how hard I try. In a way it’s a bit of an oasis in the week, except that there’s a lot of work on at the moment. Maybe later in the year it will be something to look forward to.
What it shows is that there are swings and roundabouts with any way of working and that, in fact, hybrid is the best way to go because you can combine the best of both worlds, as Hannah Montana so rightly said.

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