In the past year, companies have been trying to get their employees back into the office. No thanks to the many waves of COVID variants, those back-to-the-office plans keep changing. Then COVID cases recede in the past months. Now companies are pulling out all the stops to make the mandate to the office more palatable, including offering rewards or straight-up bribery. The New York Times reported some examples of these incentives: Microsoft throwing a party with local music, appreciation events, and wine tasting classes; Qualcomm handing out free food and giving fitness classes to workers in the office. Unfortunately, the rumblings of another surge of COVID cases ruin the allure of the office.
Some CEOs try using “the office culture” to lure their employees back. But what is “office culture”? A 2019 HBR article suggests no one knows what it is. Why? Because it’s largely based on either the HR handbook or the pieces of the HR handbook your boss chooses to ignore. Many office workers mostly stare at their screens with ears covered by noise-cancelling headphones. They rarely burst into the kind of spontaneous collaboration envisioned by corporate visionaries of yesteryear. If that’s the case, why go into the office at all if we need nothing more than an internet connection and a laptop?
Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to let a virus decide whether we need an office or not. The past two years have shown repeatedly that we do not need an office to get work done if all we need is a laptop and an internet connection.
As 21st century leaders, we have the unique opportunity to rethink what work can be like. Our environments have changed. We ought to ask ourselves why we do things the way we do instead of insisting on going back to how it was. We need to be clear of the goals we’re trying to achieve. Are those the right goals? If so, can we do things differently to accomplish those goals? Using a people-first approach to design work around human behaviour is always a good start.
So, do you want to create companies that sustain any change in the world, whether it is political, natural or financial? If so, you’ll learn the remote first mindset and transition your organisation to remote work.
Some leaders have their eyes and ears open. They see the need to learn and adopt good remote work practices. They also empower their companies to establish remote policies as soon as possible. Others are resisting this inevitable trend that work has taken. The former group will prosper and attract the most talented people. The latter will see their most talented people leave and end up with a tarnished brand reputation.
Which type of leader are you? Which type of leader is leading the company you work in?
Next time, I’ll go into how a company transitions into fully remote work, or better yet, a remote first mindset.