We have had so much change over the last 2 years it has been exhausting. The biggest change has been in moving from office based work to flexible work arrangements. I love flexible work! Why wouldn’t I? I own a space dedicated to flexible work, I’m the Co-Chair and founding member of Flexible Workspace Australia and I am a huge supporter of a better work/life balance.
HERE’S WHY WE SHOULD RETURN TO THE OFFICE
One of the things that worries me about the shift to work from home though, is the lack of resilience in the work force, especially amongst young people. Hear me out here! When you have to turn up to an office to work, you’re not just turning up to sit at your desk and do your work. You’re turning up and learning how to interact with people (who you may not necessarily choose to interact with on any given day!), you’re learning how to plan your day both in terms of your workload and the basics of getting to and from work. You’re learning how to navigate office culture and the pressures of deadlines, clients and face to face time, which are not skills with which we are born.
My point here is that by working from home all the time, or for the greater majority, we’re not learning any of these skills and when we do eventually have to return to the office (because we will), we will not be resilient enough to cope with these pressures.
Being around other people has many and varied benefits. We’ve all heard and read hundreds of articles on loneliness, social isolation, mental health and wellbeing and the physiological effects of working in an environment that is not set up properly for work. The list goes on. By working from home alone, not only are we setting ourselves up for disappointment in these areas, we are also creating a society that is extremely individualistic.
Think about it – when you work from home alone you decide when your coffee break is and if you’ll microwave tuna for lunch. You decide whether you have the aircon on full blast or the heater up to 28 degrees. You decide everything about your environment without a thought for anyone else. Is this a healthy mental state? The Dalai Lama says it best –
“If we think only of ourselves, forget about other people, then our minds occupy very small area. Inside that small area, even tiny problem appears very big. But the moment you develop a sense of concern for others, you realise that, just like ourselves, they also want happiness; they also want satisfaction. When you have this sense of concern, your mind automatically widens. At this point, your own problems, even big problems, will not be so significant. The result? Big increase in peace of mind. So, if you think only of yourself, only your own happiness, the result is actually less happiness. You get more anxiety, more fear.”
Being in an environment where we need to consider the thoughts and feelings of others (such as the office) actually widens our perspective and our minds, and brings with it more peace, more happiness and more resilience.
When I started working full time about a hundred years ago, there was no ability to work from home. You worked from 9am-5pm five days a week and you lived the rest of your life outside of these hours. Thankfully those days are long gone. Flexible working allows us to enjoy both our lives and our work and provides a myriad of opportunities for those who previously may not have been able to work in an office. This could be due to distance, physical ability or family situations. These are all amazing advances for our society.
We should build on these advancements and find the best balance we can. This is the part where I tell you to fall in love with your office again! Your office can be a place of learning and growth, both personally and professionally. It can be a place for fun and social interactions. It can be a place where you develop skills that will remain with you for life and that will be applicable in all areas of your life, not just at your desk. I can guarantee you that you will not find these skills sitting at your kitchen table or in your home office alone.
So talk to your boss and let them know you want to return to the office again. Tell them you want to improve your life by returning to the office. It’s time to make another another change. I promise you won’t regret it.
Article provided by Fiona Mayor, The Thrive Network
FLEXIBLE WORKSPACE AUSTRALIA
Flexible Workspace Australia is the peak body for coworking and flexible workspace providers and partners across all cities and regions of Australia.