Tag: work life balance


Back to Normal! Or ‘the Great Resign?’

Two articles were published in early June. One, on the BBC website, had a very simple headline: “Five day office week will become the norm again.” The other article, in City AM. was equally straightforward: “Avoiding the great resignation will require some creative thinking.”

They can’t both be right. So which will it be? Will we all end up back in the office with the kitchen table and Zoom calls just a distant memory? Or will workers, re-acquainted with the joys of traffic jams and commuting, decide that their work/life balance should take precedence? 

Let’s look at both sides of the argument.

The BBC story was simple: within two years we’ll all be back in the old pattern of five days a week at the office. While there’ll be a blend of home and office as the UK recovers from the pandemic the Centre for Cities think tank is predicting it will ultimately be “back to normal.” Director of Research Paul Swinney says the reason is simple: “One of the benefits of being in the office is having interactions with other people. Coming up with new ideas and sharing information.” 

This was famously the view of Steve Jobs, perhaps the leading advocate of chance meetings in the office. “Ideas don’t happen in the boardroom,” Jobs said. “They happen in corridors.” 

So for the good of the UK economy, we’d better all get back into the office. But will people want to be there? Will there be anyone to spark an idea with in Steve Jobs’ corridor? 

City AM’s argument was equally simple. People have realised they can live on less money. They simply don’t want to return to the office. They’d rather be with their families. “As many as 40% of employees are considering changing jobs in the next six to 12 months” according to the article. 

While City AM was talking about London – it is, after all, a London-focused publication – the same could equally well be said about plenty of cities in the UK. Will people really want to spend the time and the money commuting? Yes, some will: for single people 15 months of working from home may well have been lonely and difficult. However, people with families may take a very different view. Shared childcare, the chance to balance work and family commitments – they are going to find being tied to the office five days a week a lot less attractive. 

The City AM article suggested that business owners and directors will need to be creative if they’re to avoid “the great resign.” That seems certain: lockdown saw a record number of businesses set-up in the UK. You wouldn’t bet against that record being broken again in the first year of working patterns being “back to normal.”




Lessons in work life balance from Mr. Frostick

You may have come across the recent story of Jonathan Frostick. 

Mr Frostick is a contractor, managing a team of 20 people for HSBC. In the middle of April he sadly suffered a heart attack.

Starting his recovery in hospital he wrote a post on LinkedIn, vowing ‘to restructure his approach to work’ and confessing that his first thought as the heart attack struck was that ‘it wasn’t convenient: I had a meeting with my manager tomorrow.’ 

Mr Frostick’s post went viral, gaining more than 200,000 likes and over 11,000 comments – as he said that life ‘literally is too short.’ This story came hot on the heels of young bankers at Goldman Sachs complaining about their ‘inhumane’ working hours – and calling for an 80 hour a week cap. 

There is no doubt that the pandemic and the last 12 months have brought working practices under the spotlight. Many people have used lockdown and the new experience of working from home to reassess what they want from life and work. 

They’ve realised that they haven’t missed time spent commuting: the same sandwiches from the same sandwich shop. That they’ve enjoyed spending more time with their families, or simply having time to exercise, think and re-evaluate their lives. 

Even though many people are now going back to the office, it is likely that the process will continue. It is easy to think that a lot of people will initially go back to the office with enthusiasm – and three months later walk in to see their manager and say, “I need to have a word…” 

Of course, we will always recommend investing in long term financial planning. But as we’ve seen above, the last 12 months have shown us that there are equally important things to invest in. 

The most important of these – obviously – is your own health. With more limited options for both exercise and socialising, getting out for walks has become a popular past-time over the pandemic. Given all its health benefits – improved posture, a stronger heart, weight loss, improved mental health – perhaps we should all invest in a pair of walking boots! But whether walking is an option that works for you or not, it’s important to take care of your mental health. 

The pandemic has been tough on many levels and for a lot of people – especially frontline staff – the true mental health cost may only be seen as the pandemic comes to an end and they are no longer ‘living on adrenaline.’ Juggling work, family, home schooling and perhaps elderly relatives will have taken a big toll. 

As the pandemic ends it is important that we don’t simply slip back into our old ways of doing things: of never having enough time and getting our work/life balance completely unbalanced. We need to heed the lesson of Jonathan Frostick!