The last laugh: Stuck in work limbo

The grass is greener – particularly in Norfolk – says Stephanie Davies.

Hands up who fancies a week on the Norfolk Broads. Because everyone loves a staycation at the moment don’t they? But hands up who fancied a week on the Norfolk Broads this time last year, when a week on the Costa Del Sol was also on the table. Not so many I would think.

That’s the funny thing about choice. We only really appreciate it when we don’t have it. A year ago the world was our oyster and the Norfolk Broads were low on the list. But that choice has become narrower thanks to coronavirus, so now we can only dream of Benidorm and instead have to pick from whatever else is left on the menu.

If we don’t, we go hungry. It is like getting to the breakfast buffet at the hotel and discovering that the only items left are the cereals. Suddenly everyone wants Coco Pops. It is human nature to want what we can’t have, and then, when we get it, to want something else instead. 

Everyone wants to be older when they are children, and then, when the realities of adulthood hit, we all want to be young again, which is why so many turn to Botox and dress inappropriately when we go out on the town. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’ve managed to avoid Botox but I still wear clubwear from the 90s.

It is human nature to want what we can’t have, and then, when we get it, to want something else instead. 

The world of work is no exception. Before coronavirus there was a growing trend towards flexitime and homeworking. And then suddenly, for huge swathes of workers, that was all they could do because during lockdown, unless you were a key worker or furloughed, there was no choice but to work from home.

And for many months that suited people. But the funny thing about human nature is that you can have too much of a good thing. Because increasingly, the people I talk to are getting quite excited about returning to work.

It works in reverse too. A business colleague told me about one of her team who had always taken full advantage of the business’s flexitime scheme, enjoying a fairly relaxed attitude to time-keeping and holidays.


Once lockdown happened and staff were encouraged to work from home, she suddenly became Ms Presenteeism, putting in more office hours than were required and asking for overtime. Perhaps it was because of the two young children and husband at home. Flexitime didn’t seem such a great choice after all.

With many people now stuck in work limbo, where some are still in offices, others are at home and some are in between, doing a few days at each location, there are reports of simmering resentment. According to reports, workers who have had to go to work throughout the pandemic are resentful of their colleagues who have been working from home.

A report in The Daily Telegraph quoted Katie Jacobs of CIPD as saying that employers were reporting negative responses when they asked staff to return, with some refusing on safety grounds. Some workers who have shouldered extra duties during the lockdown have filed grievance claims. And others have even left the country to avoid it.

To me that sounds a bit extreme. Particularly when they could have gone to the Norfolk Broads.


About the author

Stephanie Davies is the founder of Laughology.


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