The talk over the past few weeks has been frankly odd. We have seen large corporations announce their employees do not need to return the office while some suggest they do. There have been some to ban the use of public transport and others offer money to invest in “work-from-home” kits. It’s very confusing to the many many people who until March only ever knew office work.
I’ve benefited from working for an employer that has encouraged flexible working for a long period. Prior to March I would work from home 1 or 2 days a week – the remaining time was split from time at client sites with maybe 1 or 2 days in the office – with office visits serving a purpose. A team meeting for example. Next month when I “return” to the office following schools reopening I will no doubt follow a similar pattern. It works for me and this is a key – your working arrangements need to work for you and your employer and your customers.
I like the office. I hate to repeat what everyone else is saying but those kitchen moments when you bump into someone. A chance meeting in the elevator (though this will be at a distance for now!) or walking the floor can be productive. I also re-energise from social energy and you do not get that from a video call.
I like home working. It saves on commuting. It allows time with the family and has (without the children being off school) been beneficial to my wellbeing and mental health. I like working from other locations too. It is why I flex my week to work from where it works best.
So in my view this balance is needed for many. There is no doubt roles which have to be in the office and those that never need to visit the office but for many it’s a balance of office versus alternative (the key is that not office doesn’t mean home).This is a real opportunity to create a change for the customer of the office. It is a chance to redesign floor plates to enhance creative spaces. For employers an opportunity to engage with employees to truly create the collaborative space needed to be productive.
Our roles can no doubt be broken down into (1) work we can do alone and (2) work we can do with the team – this then fits into where you work. I don’t need to be in the office to read reports, review files and respond to emails. I do need to be in the office (or an office-like space) to work on a team project.
So it is simple. The office is not extinct. It serves a purpose in our working lives. Now we will see an office that truly allows its customers to be productive, to connect and to innovate.