The pandemic made us all familiar with ‘social distancing’. Employers are starting to glimpse a future where ‘contractual distancing’ is progressively normalised.

For all the suffering it wrought and the challenges it has brought to everyday life, the onset of the pandemic had one positive effect for a significant number of workers: working from home became a reality for millions of employees, in Europe and beyond—relieving them from the daily grind of long commutes, the toxicity of certain office environments and some of the drudgery of the nine-to-five routine. It offered at least the prospect of a better work-life balance, of greater flexibility, and an unprecedented degree of autonomy.

Unsurprisingly, in spite of a long winter of seemingly endless Zoom meetings, blistering ‘home schooling’ sessions and worrying levels of social isolation, early surveys suggest many are unwilling to contemplate a full return to the office in the post-pandemic world. Employers are also increasingly ambivalent: some see home working as ‘an aberration‘ to be rectified as soon as possible but others are tempted by the cost-saving associated with reduction of office space.