Working from home: is there a debate to be had?

Written by Charley Lowther

9 June 2023


It’s safe to say the world saw some dramatic changes back in the year 2020. Now, however, three years after it began, WHO has declared COVID to no longer be a global emergency. And we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. But while businesses and individuals alike have scrambled to put the pandemic in their rear-view mirror, there is one thing that still causes a divide  – whether or not we should continue working from home.

Promotion or work from home?

Recently a new report deemed Britain to be ‘Europe’s work from home capital’, with just a third of UK employees spending at least four days a week in the office. Surprising, considering the same report stated that employees who work from home are less likely to receive pay rises, bonuses and promotions.

But people are clearly willing to make that trade off. In fact, working from home has become a critical component of the job for a lot of people, to the extent they are creating petitions when being asked to return to the office. For example, Apple employees said the company risked stifling diversity and staff wellbeing by restricting their ability to work remotely – and actively refused the return to office mandate.

Petitions like this, as well as chancing the risk of no promotion or pay rises, show just how much some workers have adjusted to the new way of working and their reluctance to revert back to how things were before.

Bouncing off the walls or off each other?

Many businesses have, for the time being, put in place a hybrid working model. It is the model we use here at Berkeley Communications, with two days in the office per week and homeworking for the other three. For the most part, it works. But it is still a topic that regularly comes up in conversation. Some like the flexibility, feel they are more productive at home and feel better supported with childcare and travel plans. Others find themselves feeling isolated when working from home or, like myself, rely on working in the office for mentoring and development.

Politicians and business leaders have been becoming more vocal on the topic too. The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last month suggested that office working should be ‘default’ unless there is a good reason otherwise. The reasoning for his stance was a lack of collaboration caused by homeworking, stating that he “worries about the loss of creativity when people are permanently working from home and not having those water cooler moments, where they bounce ideas off each other”.

The small issue of creativity

Some jobs rely on creativity more than others. For us, working in PR, creativity is a constant requirement, whether it’s in relation to pitching, writing content, planning activities or sourcing media opportunities. But, to say that creativity is always dampened by the lack of those ‘water cooler’ moments is perhaps a little unfair.

Creativity flourishes in different ways. Some like the ability to bounce off each other, finding it more stimulating when working in an environment that surrounds them with conversation and movement. We are lucky enough here to work in an open plan office, which is a constant hub of activity and ideas being thrown around the room. Others, however, find creativity in a place of peace and tranquillity. They use their home working days to write content, brainstorm and generate ideas, then spend their time at the office engaging in meetings and sharing their work with their peers.

From looking at the difference of opinion in our office alone, it’s easy to see why the home working debate is still ongoing. But does it really matter? With each member of the team working their best in different scenarios, there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. But surely, if we can be flexible with the way in which we work, then shouldn’t that flexibility allow us to adapt depending on the needs of the individual?

We’re lucky at Berkeley to be given such flexibility. We work to a hybrid model as standard, as this is the best option for most. But for those of us that live too far from the office to come in weekly, or have prior commitments that prevent them from making it in twice a week, the working model is adapted to better suit their needs.

That’s not to say this will work for everyone, but it certainly works for us. And, while the work from home debate and its implications are interesting to follow nonetheless, I don’t think Berkeley needs to worry about a petition being started up anytime soon.