So how will I use the office ….

We have now returned to work – or so it would appear the way the news is portraying. Not sure what people have been doing for the last year if not working? Though I appreciate some have been on furlough. 

The office. A place of work. I met clients and teams there. I meet at the client site too. We use the local coffee shop. We have large team meetings & training sessions in the office. We also use large spaces at other venues. I meet people in the office who I know but don’t directly work with. The office and other locations serve a purpose. 

There is a lot of noise and discussion around the future working model for businesses. We need to consider that these are largely untested for these organisations and therefore what needs to happen over the coming months is experiments. Engagement with employees (and customers) to understand the needs and then working around to see what benefits all parties in a fair manner. Working remotely hasn’t been the huge disaster many thought. There have been elements of productivity noise but reflecting on everything else going on means it’s hard to tell. Overall I certainly feel like I’ve been productive.

What I feel we have learned over the last year is what work we can do perfectly well from our home. Technology has shown us how we can work better. We can break down our role – our tasks – and think about how best to deliver them. Do we need to collaborate and interact with each other or can we do it alone? The access to work tools allows me to work anywhere I can connect to the internet (and with a number of offline tools allows even access without that!). 

So what would a typical day in the office look like for me:

  1. I’d hold meetings with clients and teams. Now I have done this for the last year, although largely over video calls. Some were telephone calls and small numbers (when allowed) were face to face. Now I’m not saying I want to replace life with video. I can’t think of much worse BUT it does work for certain meetings. A meeting needs a purpose and with that purpose will be an answer to how best to have the meeting. 
  2. I would meet people not directly in my team. This has decreased a lot but not stopped over the last year. You have to be disciplined – and with video overload you don’t want to add more. No reason why though with careful planning you have these catch ups on days you are in the office BUT also virtually over a brew. 
  3. Large meetings and training. Now these are a challenge. There must be a limit on when a meeting doesn’t feel collaborative. Thinking ahead though can really solve this. Bringing people together can be something truly special, whether in the office or another location. We need human contact. A chance to coach and learn together.

This is for me though. Everyone one is different. It lends itself to a work from anywhere position in life. Provided you have the access to space and the ability to utilise technology the world should be your oyster. I mean even airplanes could be resigned Crystal Cabin Awards: Inside the future of redesigned airplane cabins. It is surprising to see some surveys suggesting a high percentage of work would give up their salary to work from home. I mean why not have your cake and eat it by picking an employer that allows flexibility. Some examples of how businesses are changing with the times:

  • Fully remote: Twitter, Nationwide & Spotify
  • 40-60%: Rightmove, HSBC & PwC
  • Full return: Bloomberg & Goldman Sachs

Organisations have made a decision, or potentially started an experiment. Most have publicly announced that they have put in place their policy based on discussions with their employees. A good way to approach an employee empowered world. By approaching what employees need and want (you can at least hear them out, it still needs to work for the business) you remove a potential bias of more senior people in organisations making a decision that works for them.

So we are returning to work, they say. A potentially better way to describe is that we are being “released” back into a workplace driven world. Think about what EMPLOYEES need (all of them!). Think about what the BUSINESS needs. Think about a solution that benefits BOTH. For me it’s hybrid. For many they need flexibility and choice. Let the experiment commence!

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