As a lot of countries begin to reopen everything post covid, we find ourselves in the midst of the inevitable return to the office conundrum. For many, a covid enforced working from home policy was a gift from the gods (I’m looking at you introverts) and for others it was a jail sentence. Whichever side of the fence you are on, it is likely that if you are working for a company, you may well be required to return to the office for some arbitrary amount of time for example 2 days per week, 50% of the quarter, 1 day a month. There are no rules here and companies, in the main, are mostly making this up based on what other larger companies are doing.

I am a couple of weeks into experiencing a return to the office policy based on a requirement to spend 2 days per week in the office. Here are some observations thus far…

  1. It is genuinely great to have somewhere outside of your home to work again.
  2. As nice as working from home is, the office provides a very needed “someplace else” to perform work duties from and for that, I am very grateful to have it available again.
  3. The commute for 2 days per week is a welcome break from the norm for me and provides an opportunity to disconnect from work mode and switch gears into family mode and vice versa.
  4. The office environment may not be as productive as my home office, mainly due to the social aspects of work, which honestly, the importance of I personally overlooked and missed during the lockdowns. It is the people, at the end of the day, that make the work enjoyable or not. So yes there might a cost to productivity but it makes people happier so no doubt any perceived productivity losses will be regained when it matters.
  5. The office environment is a bit lacking and not everyone is in on the same days, some days have very few people e.g. Mondays.
  6. Being in the office with just a handful of people makes the place seem very empty and a bit soul less.
  7. There is no additional or better equipment available in the office that enables better work or collaboration, in fact most teams are operating the same whether in the office or not e.g. everyone on a teams call at their desk for standup, regardless of the location of the desk.
  8. Onerous commutes – I can see the point of view of people who have long commutes and the desire to eliminate this part of their day – when this effort is onerous, the toll of transportation, energy, focus and costs mount up over time.
  9. We have an opportunity now to reimagine what the office is, what is its real purpose and benefit and how can it help employees do their best work and grow but how many companies are thinking about this opportunity?
  10. If an office simply reopens in the same state as when it closed, it can leave employees feeling “what’s the point” of coming into the office, there is no additional value and I have proved I can do this job remotely.

No doubt this is both a challenging time for employers in terms or employee retention but it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate our relationship with the office space – do we still need an office and if so, how can this space be used to help us do our best work and grow as humans?

Answer that and you might have a place people want to spend time in willingly.

JP