Mediation can help overcome issues of a phased return to the office - Graham Boyack

I have a slight trepidation about writing this article as I am well aware that assuming that Covid is in retreat is not an exact science.

However, with the Scottish Government calling for a phased return to the office for those who work in them, it is important to look at how that might work and what office work might look like in years to come.

I also think it’s the case that as more and people are vaccinated, the safeguards that were in place are more likely to be reduced over the next few months. That’s not to say there may be occasions when there will be a need to respond to changed circumstances.

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Over the course of the pandemic it has been clear to see that there have been advantages and disadvantages to working from home and for many people, both the idea and the reality of returning to the office present real issues that need to be dealt with.

I know from my own experience that there have been things missed from not being in the office. They include the immediate collective learning of dealing with an issue which you either get colleagues assistance from or simply share the results of the five-minute “can I just check something with you” conversations that happen more easily when colleagues are in the office.

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That said, for our team it has been easier to hold meetings that everyone can attend, carving out the time to deal with more substantial tasks has been easier and it has prompted us to improve our online telecom and computer capacities.

For individuals in the team there have been positives and negatives too. We had a new memberjoin us late in 2020 and that was definitely more difficult for our new employee to understand the organisation and how things work.

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For other team members who commute into Edinburgh the daily stress of using transport links is no longer and the time used commuting has been deployed more effectively.

On a personal basis, I haven’t managed to replace my daily bike rides to and from work, though I do know friends who have left for work and done a route that ends up at their new workplace at home.

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For team members with young families the flexibility of home working has been gratefully welcomed. Not worrying about missing a train and the knock-on impacts of picking up from childcare, and being able to phase work over three days instead of two because the commute isn’t there have been real benefits.

As a result of the above, the idea of returning to the office is for many people quite challenging and on top of that for some who may have been shielding the idea of potential exposure to Covid is still a very real issue.

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The challenge, therefore, will be how to have positive conversations about what work will look like and at the same time to understand the opportunities presented by a flexible approach.

That is easier than it sounds and so if you need help in having those conversations at Scottish Mediation we have a register of mediators with a range of different backgrounds and experiences that can help. You can access them via our website using our Find a Mediator page or by using our Helpline 0131 556 8118.

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From my experience at Scottish Mediation some of the suggestions may seem challenging, so it’s important to consider what the needs and interest of both the organisation and staff are and the initial impressions are often misleading, so it’s important to dig deeper and identify true needs and interests.

Graham Boyack, Director, Scottish Mediation

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