Wednesday, 11 August 2021 12:20

Is it time to shine our shoes again?


Is it time to shine our shoes again and go out and buy some new office clothes (that fit) and step out enjoy feeling normal again with our work colleagues?

It's been great to be back into one or two offices to do assessments this last few weeks. The majority still with essential staff only but one or two were close to everyone being back and to full capacity. It did feel really odd to be in a busy office after so long but to hear everyone enjoying the buzz and increased energy of working together again was great to see. Small meetings going on and group training in meeting rooms, with everyone looking interested, it gave me real hope that we have turned a corner.

However, talk in the media and from ministers is still very negative about returning employees to the offices, despite over 70% of UK adults now being double jabbed. This includes the 18-30 years olds who it was thought may resist against having the vaccine which could cause a mutation of the virus and further lockdowns, please no!

With the freedom to attend events and socialise pretty much as we like surely, it's time to put out a positive message to encourage companies to do the same? Not having employees at their desks has had a huge impact on my own business resulting in totally changing how we look after our clients. We now have a very slick video call assessment service that we can provide much quicker and at a lot cheaper. We have also had to totally re designed our DSE Training courses so that the training is equally effective remotely as it is in a training room and this also includes a new and comprehensive section on how to manage home working and hybrid working effectively. And there is no doubt we will continue to offer and provide our services in this way. However, there is no better way to resolve an issue with an employee, such as chronic pain, than sitting down with them at their desk and going through it all step by step.

Adapting in this way has greatly reduced our overheads and our carbon footprint which are both positives. However, as an assessor who advises employees and employers on all aspects of disability, which often involves mental health, the long-term effects of working from home concerns me. Particularly for this extraordinary amount of time and for the many who have been told they will be working from home indefinitely.

For some employees it has been and may continue to be of great benefit to work from home, particularly those who usually have long busy commutes and/or have very young or school aged children or having caring responsibilities as well as work. This is not the case for so many more though and the initial feeling of freedom felt from working from home has long been over, much like a child who wishes he didn't have to go to school, when in reality after a few weeks they would miss it, not just their friends but the learning too. This is particularly apparent for those starting out in their careers. Working closely together in departments or teams has so many social benefits for everyone and not just those starting out. However, but it is this group I really feel for. Many of my best and longest friendships I have been made with people I met in my first few jobs, many with people I attended induction with, and we helped each other through those early weeks and months. Going out to lunch and a pint after work with my work mates was so important to help me develop my own confidence and social skills. And speaking to many business owners I work closely with, friends with businesses and clients, the majority of them are now finding it increasingly difficult and time consuming to motivate and monitor their staff to ensure the business pushes out of the pandemic positively. Many of them having staff who have been employed for over 12 months who have never been in the office, in an actual team meeting or even on a company social event. Company socials, remember them? My own son has his first "proper job" working as civil servant, which is fantastic. However, he is also spending a lot of days carrying out his training from home, which can’t be good for him and not easy for the department he is working for. He also had to complete the last year of his degree from home, had no graduation and at 22 he hasn't been out properly with all of his friends since his 21st birthday last February. At 51 I am used to being at home and the late nights out for me are not important anymore (and rare), but for the younger generation thy are so important just as they were for me and all of us at that age.

He's missing out on going out for lunch and socialising after work with his new colleagues and this has a huge knock-on effect to those businesses that rely on offices being busy and staff doing just that, particularly in town and city centres. The loss in revenue has already been too much and I see many small commercial properties in my home city of Manchester, that used to be sandwich shops, clothes shops or cafes, now sitting empty and TO LET, but who will take them?

So, for me it's time for a lot more positivity, of course those who feel vulnerable or who are vulnerable please be vigilant but for the rest of surely it's time. I have shined my shoes (when I eventually found them), I have treated myself to some new work clothes (that fit) and I am stepping out with confidence and very much enjoying the feeling of feeling normal again and to help others feel the same.


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