3 Reasons why ‘the office’ isn’t dead

Dec 8, 2020

In the face of the current narrative proclaiming the ‘death of the office’, there are three reasons why we believe ‘the office’ will survive long past Covid-19.

The narrative is all around us and for periods of 2020 I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it might be true. Multiple reports state 40-45% of workers in Europe and the USA were working remotely due to Covid-19. It was a smart decision during peak periods of Covid-19.  Through investment in technology, organisations were able to adapt and survive through these periods. But the idea that the office will be obsolete after Covid-19 is a massive exaggeration. Here’s why.

Culture

As good as Slack, Zoom and Teams have been through the pandemic they aren’t a substitute for human contact when it comes to building a positive culture in an organisation. Culture is crucial in gaining employee buy-in and promoting new value-adding ideas. It’s the 5% extra that gives a business an edge in their respective market. Culture can’t be bought. It must be built through shared experiences, values and learning – where face to face makes a huge difference.

Trying to maintain this over virtual mediums through lockdown period was a necessity, but as time moves on remote working will result in a deterioration of culture. A lack of trust can develop when a team faces adversity in remote working situations. The lack of a smile or office banter can result in team members feeling distant from their colleagues, managers or work-related goals. A return to the office in some capacity will quickly see improvement in this crucial aspect of any organisation.

Relationships are like a bank.  Every act of kindness, smile or demonstration of interest in a person as an individual puts money into that bank. When someone has had a bad day and does not phrase something in a particularly gentle way, people will interpret that communication according to how much is in their ‘relationship bank’.  If it is full, they are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.  If it is empty… they have no basis for trust or generosity.

Productivity

A global online employment platform recently completed a survey on remote working burnout. They found that over two-thirds of employees were experiencing burnout when working remotely for extended periods. While commuting into an office may seem like lost time for some, it can create an important boundary between work and home life. Juggling work and home responsibilities can easily prove a difficult distraction for employees. Without this boundary people can slide into an unhealthy balance, ultimately resulting in a longer, less productive work day/week/month. Not a positive equation for either employees or employer.

While several early indicators may have suggested otherwise, the effect of burnout is becoming clearer as workers have spent longer at home. In a recent survey 55% of people said they were less productive and less engaged when working from home! Imagine what that is doing to overall productivity and staff retention! People are not only ready but willing to return to a stimulating office environment when it’s safe to do so.

Osmosis of ideas

In my opinion, the osmosis of ideas is the most important reason. I’m referring to the shared development of idea’s and learning gained by social and work-related interaction. Informal collaboration or decision making that can’t be easily achieved over a zoom call or slack channel. It requires more free flowing conversation, brainstorming or mind mapping sessions. The kind where no idea is a bad one and lateral thinking is encouraged. This is the critical benefit of the office environment serving as a place to promote collaborative and innovative ideas. Pre Covid-19 this value was highlighted by the massive growth of the shared office market. Users of those spaces were fully remote working capable, but deliberately chose to get their teams together in an office environment. Businesses of all sizes benefit from osmosis and will look to return to it when the time is right.

So what do I think the future of the office is?

Whilst I think remote working has its flaws, it has taught a lot. I believe organisations will take these learnings and implement them into their offices of the future. Things like enable flexible schedules, but ensuring culture is prioritised with a healthy remote and office balance. Automating administrative tasks and using the office environment to promote innovative value adding work. A social and collaborative place where people can come to focus on their role, bettering their organisation.

So the office isn’t dead, it’s better.

Now you know our thoughts, what are yours?

We want to find out and share other people’s perspectives on the future of the office. So, let us know your thoughts on the statement below:

The office is dead post-pandemic.

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