Household chores, loneliness and childcare duties are just some of the reasons North West workers can’t wait to get back to the office, according to new research.
As the nation starts the lifting of all lockdown restrictions from today (19 July), a survey conducted by property developer CERT Property – owner of Manchester-based Hilton House and newly created Duke & Parr in Liverpool – has revealed that, despite 77% of those surveyed enjoying working from home, only 12% would opt to work at home five days a week.
Topping the list of work from home distractions is housework (37%), with childcare juggling also causing a serious diversion – more than a fifth of men (21%) said juggling childcare duties was a major challenge, compared with 19% of women.
From an emotional point of view, being away from the workplace caused 29% of respondents to experience a lack of motivation, with 27% struggled with loneliness.
Even our furry friends are preventing us from working effectively at home – with pets also listed as a source of regular disruption.
Avoiding these distractions is an obvious lure to the 45% of North West workers who said they would prefer to be in the office. But people are also excited about socialising with colleagues again. Interestingly, the survey showed it was men who missed their workmates the most, with 56% saying they were looking forward to seeing their colleagues again, compared to 49% of women.
Home working, however, scored higher in other areas, with a third of workers (31%) saying working from home was better for their mental health and half (49%) saying it had helped them achieve a work/life balance.
Now, with the country set to return to a version of pre-pandemic life, many workers are calling on their employers to step up their mental health support as people head back to their desks.
Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (69%) agreed that workplaces would need to adapt post-pandemic and it was not workplace facilities, but rather mental health support that was topping the chart of demands.
To meet these evolved needs workplaces will have to be reimagined, according to Howard Lord, founder of CERT Property, which has focused on creating ‘post-pandemic-friendly’ workspaces with health and wellbeing at their core – including at its newly renovated Hilton House and Duke & Parr sites.
“You can see from our survey that what is expected of workspaces has changed forever,” says Howard. “The offices of old are gone. The office now needs to be a destination and employees are looking to return to nurturing and inspiring spaces that enable collaboration.
“At CERT we have always been passionate about creating environments that are not simply a place to live or work – instead, our vision is to build communities, bringing like-minded people and businesses together.
“We focus on the people aspect of places, if you bring people together to interact, whether virtually or physically a community will thrive, the people in it will thrive and they will help businesses thrive too.
“The fact that we have reached 70% occupancy at Hilton House, during a time when the traditional working environment had been challenged, is testament to the success of our progressive approach.”
CERT’s recently renovated Hilton House in Manchester’s Northern Quarter incorporates a first of its kind mental health and wellbeing venue – the Feel Good Club. The new coffee house will host regular events including wellbeing talks, yoga and a series of mental awareness workshops.
Howard says, “Feel Good Club offers workers a unique place to reflect and rejuvenate and is just one of the ways we’re encouraging those in our communities to put their health and wellbeing first.
“While people clearly still want the benefit of having a dedicated place to focus on work, they also expect to be able to find a better work life balance with more flexibility than before.”
To help switch off from work and encourage people to embrace a much needed work/life balance, Feel Good Club adheres to a strict non-working environment after 5pm to boost positive mental health.
Kiera Lawlor-Skillen at Feel Good Club, said: “Our mission as a brand is to remind people to focus on what makes them feel good, to normalise the conversation around mental health and talking in general. We opened our doors mid pandemic to do just that, and as we navigate these ever-changing times our main aim is to provide a space to feel good and to bring people together as normality returns.
“Our mental health is more precious than it’s ever been and these findings are absolutely no surprise, especially when it comes to employers needing to step up their efforts to look after their staff wellbeing.”
Atul Bansal, Co-Founder at interior designer, Sheila Bird, which works alongside CERT Property, said: “Office spaces have been evolving for some time but, with the pandemic, it’s provided us all with an opportunity to relook at where and how we work. We have an opportunity to be visionary.
“Standard offices are no longer enough for companies and their people – rather, they want a community and a space where creativity and collaboration collide. That is exactly what we have achieved at Duke & Parr. Whether it is breakout areas, communal spaces or simply allowing natural light in, it is vital that every space has a purpose and a pulse so that workforces can flourish in a post-pandemic world.”