Happy New Year! At the start of the new year, we have this sense of hope and excitement as we envision what the next 365 days would look like. So, what do you envision? Are you lamenting that the pandemic is still going on? Are you dreaming of getting people back to the office?
Before you put forth the back-to-office plan, allow me to remind you of the arguments from both sides. I’m specifically talking about those who can work from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection and a laptop. On top of the ones I already listed in my earlier posts titled “Should knowledge workers go back to the office or should we not?”, here’re a few additional ones:
- For back to the office
- Many employers believe going back to the office will boost productivity and profits.
- Some people see their commute as a welcome way to shift in or out of work mode.
- Some people enjoy having time in the car or on public transportation to listen to music or read a book.
- Some look forward to collaborating with colleagues in person.
- Companies are already paying for the office space, so they want those spaces occupied.
- Against back to the office
- Some see commuting as wasting their time and adding to their stress levels when they can do their jobs just as well from home, thus avoiding the stress caused by the daily grinding commute, and finding more time for their families, all of which leads to improved mental health.
- Some don’t need a commute to the office to keep a separation between home and work.
- Working remotely saves not only time, but also money. The total savings include savings on gas/patrol or train fares, the value of the time spent in commute, and broader savings due to reduced risk of accidents.
- Better work-life balance, flexible work hours.
- Some companies want to cut costs by reducing office space.
To be accommodating to both sides, most would think, “let’s take a hybrid approach and let workers choose which two or three days in the week to be in the office.” That’s not the answer, because how that hybrid is designed can make all the difference.
First, let the team figure out what would be most productive for them to work together. The timing for a team to work together in person could vary from a few days a month to one week every quarter, depending on the interdependencies in the team’s tasks. Let the team decide when they work together and when they work apart instead of telling them to go into the office two or three days a week and have them choose which two or three days.
Second, we need to ask a different question: What is the purpose of an office? What can and should we use offices for in the future to develop the organization? Before diving in, I’d like to know your thoughts. What is your view on those two questions? Let me know by leaving a comment below and we’ll explore it together next time.