How is it to be back at the office during a pandemic?

We were all excited about the WFH idea at the beginning of the pandemic. However, after a year and a half, there are more studies and research that help us to draw a few conclusions.

We’ve done a small “market research” at one of the office buildings in Cluj and we’ve asked the colleagues about the influence that the pandemic period had on their work routine. Many of those we talked to changed their jobs during the pandemic or even the domain they were working in before the pandemic.

What about productivity?

For the most part, everyone we interviewed said that they went through a more difficult period with the changes that the pandemic forced us to initiate. Nothing unexpected until here, right? For example, Andreea said that because the domain was new for her, “everything seemed to be difficult to do when working from home.” (Trust me! I feel yoou!) She also observed that “promptness is not as great as in the case of work from office”. How could it be? The wife knocks on the door, the TV on the other side speaks loudly, the child pulls you by the sock, your stomach growls and the neighbor makes sure it’s a drill day. Anyway, I think you got it! For Arthemis “the most difficult situations encountered at WFH were when I needed support from colleagues and it was difficult to find them, while from the office, I could easily call them by name and receive instant support”.

If we think more about the way the respondents see it, it makes a lot of sense. A study that was carried out recently, concluded that “the implementation of WFH during this pandemic has been found to cause challenges such as delays in service delivery, providing additional resources and training, and requiring investment in IT, software, and infrastructure to support WFH” (Shareena & Shahid, 2021). In regards to equipment, the Qubiz team had the option to take it home if they wanted or needed to.

The majority of respondents said that different platforms, such as Zoom or Teams were effective in supporting project team meetings – a note also made by another study (Jallow et al., 2020) – even if the response period was longer.

WFH before pandemic?

As other authors have shown in their study conducted this year, “one of the most observable changes which have occurred because of Covid has been the shift of many employees into WFH arrangements across occupations, even where this previously was not an option” (Dayaram & Burgess, 2021). “In Qubiz, the team had this option even before the pandemic, but with all the things that happened at the office (including the work), it just made more sense to come in daily. That’s how I connected best to the team – through small jokes, reactions, through observation of gestures, facial expressions and many other moments that, in general, cannot be planned”, as Cristian says. Therefore, the main thing that changed for them is that they are more likely to choose to work from home now, than before the pandemic.

Professional versus personal…

Several studies have shown that implementing WFH has a positive impact on efficiency. A survey of IBM employees showed that 87% of employees felt that their productivity had increased with WFH arrangements (Bailey & Kurland, 2002). However, the COVID pandemic showed that this increase in productivity was only a short-term effect. In the long run, collaboration overload caused by the lack of human interactions is sinking productivity (Cross et al., 2021).

Moreover, our colleagues pointed out that it was easier to disconnect mentally from tasks when they had a physical office to leave. Many of the people we discussed with agreed on this and they said that when they work from the office, they manage to separate their personal life from work more efficiently. In her case, Iasmina explained: “working in the office helps me a lot when it comes to maintaining order in my life. Because I had never done this before, when I was doing WFH, I found myself working in bed, eating in front of my laptop, or working until very late. I didn’t know how to work from home. That’s why, for me, it’s way more convenient to go to the office.” On the same idea, Radu believes that “you have different mindsets when working from home or from the office. Both can work, but it depends on several factors.” An older study showed that WFH employees can modify the work environment according to individual needs, such as balancing work and family, so that efficiency can be improved as employees can better manage time constraints and workflow requirements (Bailey & Kurland, 2002).

Andrei pointed out that “after 6-7 months of working from home, I felt I was no longer as motivated as before and I could not connect so easily with the tasks that I had to do. Initially, I think we all felt a boost and people took refuge in work because it was a controlled environment, against the background of an unknown and difficult situation, which we didn’t know what it could bring us. Then, as time went on, I noticed that we got tired and our motivation decreased. That was the moment when I returned to the office and managed to reconnect with the team.

Team spirit or…should I say “the ghost of the team”? 😀

However, respondents declared that they still feel there is team spirit (Am I the only one imagining a spirit floating above the team, ready to attack the bodies, while reading this?), that they have not felt such big changes in terms of communication between colleagues, and they have managed to do their tasks lightly. Some of them even said they feel that communication has improved and teams have connected better. Perks like “The sweet of the month” or events, such as team buildings, coffee chats, challenges and many others are ways to bring people back together.

Qubiz’s on the wave!

It seems like the whole job market underwent a major shift, and probably we will never go back to an office-only mode. Our colleagues tend to agree. The answer was this: “We’re glad to have the option of WFH and we’re looking forward to keeping it”. In fact, flexible arrangements can be a major factor when deciding where to work. Even though, at the beginning of the pandemic, people were afraid to lose their jobs, after a certain period of accommodation, they became more and more open to new opportunities.

Finally, the main conclusion would be that Qubiz team likes to have both options, but communication is easier when working from the office. “Compared to remote work, office work brings me closer to my colleagues. There is that natural “bonding” during work and breaks. For me, working in the office helps me professionally to convince myself that I like what I do, it helps me to integrate into a new community of people with whom I will work in the long run”,  affirmed Cristina in the interview. Another colleague, Ionela thinks that “the online communication environment is handy, but the explanations and mentoring done in person are much more effective than those done online. The fact that you can immediately see the person’s reaction, you can read from her face whether she understood and other small clues like these matter a lot in the live interaction and they get lost when we interact through a call.

15 people were interviewed for this article.

Let us know what you think in the comments below! Thank y0oou!

References

Bailey, & Kurland. (2002, April 25). A review of telework research: Findings, new directions, and lessons for the study of modern work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(4), 383–400. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.144

Cross, R., Benson, M., Kostal, J., & RJ, M. (2021, September 7). Collaboration Overload Is Sinking Productivity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://hbr.org/2021/09/collaboration-overload-is-sinking-productivity

Dayaram, K., & Burgess, J. (2021). Regulatory challenges facing remote working in Australia. Science direct. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1029313221000452#bib14

Jallow, H., Renukappa, S., & Suresh, S. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 outbreak on United Kingdom infrastructure sector. Science direct. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://sci-hub.hkvisa.net/

Shareena, P., & Shahid, M. (2021, May 20). Work from home during COVID-19: Employees perception and experiences. Science direct. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1029313221000452#bbib42

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