The summer in England is nudging us. The warm weather and the fresh smells that illicit a new and more open mind set are beginning to shout at us as we open the curtains in the morning. News channels are warning of heat waves and reminding us to keep cool. Record keepers have sharpened their pencils with the promise of the hottest days in the country since records began. Pubs have shifted the focus from pints and pies to Aperol and Avocado as the sunshine warms the souls of the city.
Interestingly for the last two years as a global pandemic governed our mobility, movement and liberty and we were forced to work from home, when summer arrived, we welcomed this opportunity. The thought of logging into the office via hi speed internet, being connected to colleagues, partners, and customers via SMS, chat and email was a welcome reprieve and we embraced it whole heartedly. Sunny productive days spent working from home, friends, and family nearby and the opportunity to pop to the fridge or pantry whenever we needed was a fabulous break from the norm.
Fast forward two years, and society has begun to march back towards the way things were. Increasingly more and more people are returning to the office as immunity and vaccination fend off the virus. Motorways, tube stations and railway platforms have returned to the state of chaos that preceded lock downs and quarantines. Long lines, congested ticket barriers, overcrowded concourses and of course the inevitability of late trains and delayed journeys has meant more excuses to the boss. Passenger rage is returning with exponential frequency. Now with the summer of 2022 approaching one would think that a reason to work from home would be well received and welcomed with the experience and knowledge we have of having managed for two years.
In reality it has turned out different, sadly the rail unions have decided on strike action during the month of June. Over 40000 rail and transport workers will be downing tools and turning off the engines of their trains for three days, ultimately causing travel chaos. The RMT has balloted its members and they have decided to strike which will now force millions of people to reconsider their travel plans and how they move around the country. This will impact those getting to and from work the most and have a severely negative effect on the economy.
In a twist of irony, however we are not embracing this work from home opportunity. It appears virus induced home working is OK but strike induced home working is not. Perhaps it’s all about the timing? Has the fact we have had the opportunity to work from home for so long increased our appetites for the in-office experience? Have we missed the Hussle and bustle of the commute so much that we now find ourselves more inconvenienced by a train strike than we might have been two years ago and could we as a society be changing our perception of what productivity looks like?
None the less we will be working from home for a week in June, laptops iPads and mobile phones will crank back into action. The old video conferencing favorites of Zoom and Teams will once again be our go to technology as we attempt to stay in touch and remain productive. Our attitudes however are slightly different as we are now viewing this forced work from home scenario as an inconvenience and seem to have less appetite and desire than before to embrace being close to the fridge and able to enjoy the summer sunshine. It could very well be that economic and social factors do not seem as compelling or rational as health and wellbeing. It appears that as a society we are driven to comply when the nations physical health and well-being are at stake, but the same does not apply in reference to the nation’s economic health and well-being.
Ultimately a rail strike in the UK over summer is a reflection that things are getting back to normal. Government and unions have debated and argued pay rises and worker conditions for hundreds of years, but it seems even that was put on hold for a while to allow the country to reset. Whichever way you approach it, it seems our thought processes have been realigned.