As I was reading the millionth article that has been written on working from home and whether we want to continue it or want to go back to the office (and yes, I know that I too have written extensively on the subject), the words of the big hit song for the Spice Girls, back in the 1990s, came to mind.

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want


If you want my future, forget my past
If you wanna get with me, better make it fast
Now don’t go wasting my precious time
Get your act together we could be just fine

The words could so easily come from today’s office worker to their employer about this endless debate, which so often seems to revolve around the wrong questions and the wrong issues. There is always a tendency to view things, especially things that involve change, as absolutes: we all want to work from home; everyone wants to go back to the office but the absolutes do not reflect reality. Moreover, we will all view working from home or back in the office differently once the pandemic restrictions are completely lifted and we get our normal freedoms back.

To answer the question ‘What do we really want?’ we must go into the deeper questions about how we have grown and changed through our experiences over the past 18 months. In adjusting the workplace and managing our people, we must capitalise on what we have gained. These gains, of course, include how we use the technology that enables us to work remotely but for many of us they also include how we have used the greater autonomy, and freedom that we have experienced, how we have benefitted from having more control over when we work, as well as where. Working from home has enabled us to personalise the way we work in a way that wasn’t possible before and it is that personalisation that businesses should now be working on.

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©Janice Caplan 2020