We’re huge fans of flexible working. We’re arguably more productive working from home than in the office. We enjoy a better work-life balance spending more time with the kids, we’ve got fitter and healthier and get to close the laptop at the end of the day and step out into the Surrey sunshine. That said, we know the office will not just disappear.
The office provides all kinds of critical value, once taken for granted and should be a part of our new ‘normal’. We’ve put together a list of 5 great reasons why we think the office is here to stay and hope for the sake of us all, that it does.
Working from home.
For those who work in offices, the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed our daily routine. The time saved without a commute, the better work-life balance that many are reporting have made a permanent change to the way we work, very appealing. Several studies have even shown that most people don’t want to return to the office full-time. However it’s important to be clear here, the majority of people do want to return to the workplace in some shape or form.
Most employers have said that they do want their staff to return to the workplace but not necessarily because they don’t trust them. This seems to be a thing of the past now. The reasons some leaders are citing is because they feel that spontaneous social interaction is essential and that remote work stunts long-term innovation and growth. Many feel that the serendipitous conversations and corridor catch-ups are too important to lose.
People being forced to home without choice, feeling stressed and anxious about the health implications of the pandemic, sharing spaces with partners in working environments that are in the whole, not meant to be worked in full time. Children and pets racing round the house and many parents trying to give their children some kind of home education. All of these factors create challenging conditions for WFH. However, people are still getting and generally feel productive.
WFH will also improve post-lockdown once children go back to school full time and parents alternate at work or home. We have also learnt that the many tech platforms available have enabled us to communicate and stay connected to our colleagues (even if we’re all feeling the fatigue of Facetime). We can stay at home, we can work, we can perform our tasks, but we feel this just isn’t the way forward long-term.
All or nothing?
It’s tempting for many companies to look at the large empty floor plates, the billions spent on real estate and office fit out and think that they can ‘do without’. However the office cannot simply just disappear. This isn’t binary. It’s not all or nothing, it’s an either or. For years we have been banging on about activity based working. You should be able to pick the relevant workplace for the activity your carrying out or what your day has in store for you.
Innovation and human contact
The office is critical to human nature. We crave contact and social interaction as humans – it’s in our DNA. Moving forward, we may experience social working in a new more distance way but everyone feels they need a level of connection with their employees and employers. Face to face human interactions provides so many wellbeing positives that technology just cannot replace wholesale. Research states that a large number (especially younger members of staff) are really struggling with working from home and the lack of social interaction with colleagues. Being together in the workplace feeds this need for collaboration and togetherness whether we’re solving a new problem, pitching a new client or saying hello in a pub garden on a sunny Friday afternoon.
The workplace is also critical for innovation. FACT. We’re fundamentally creative and want to contribute to what’s new and impactful. There are arguments that we can be creative anywhere, but being together in a workplace that fuels and enhances that creativity is far more effective. Working in person means we can stimulate each others thoughts and exchange rapid fire feedback and experimentation. Team’s work better face to face when they can blend their creativity and thinking. Moving forward, more than ever companies will live and die by their ability to adapt and respond to their customers and market in new ways. Collaboration will fuel this.
Energy and Talent
The office provides a sense of purpose for businesses. Some common ground. All companies know that to deliver the best results, your team must have a sense of shared purpose and be aligned on their objectives. The office energises and provides a forum for open communication. There is something incredibly powerful by pulling together in an all-hands meeting or a war room to solve a problem. A team of colleagues and friends, in one place sharing an experience (i know this sounds like blue sky thinking). Lack of focus can occur in person too, but being together and the influence of the crowd normally gets people back on track. This is known as the ‘bandwagon effect’.
The office helps attract and retain good talent. This isn’t a new concept and has been one of the drivers for office improvement since, well forever. Place is the most visible way to demonstrate culture in a business. Whether it’s the hustle and bustle of the open plan floor that shows people talking and enjoying their work, the open door on the executive office that tells everything you need to know about approaching the leadership or the breakout area where the day goes on pause for a minute but work never really stops. The office says so much about an organisations values and priorities. It’s a lot less awkward to meet your new co workers in real life and to grab a coffee.
The bottom line.
Working from home will likely never go away and we think that’s a good thing. WFH offers a large amount of benefits as long as it’s part of a balanced work-life diet but the office must never disappear. It’s critical for teams, culture and organisations. The office provides way more than just innovation, talent and energy. There’s something intangible about it.
We can do so much from home and do so relatively productively but it’s just not the same. A balance between office and home working life should form part of a holistic working experience for people. The workplace has always had a place, whilst that place may shift or move, we must maintain it’s position and importance in working life.