slate.com has an excellent article entitled The Worst Part of Working From Home Is Now Haunting Reopened Offices that’s worth a read.
I’m concerned with “return to office” rhetoric that sounds too much like trying to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. The pandemic didn’t change the way we do things as much as accellerated existing trends – we skipped ahead 8-10 years, and adapted to working in a way that was new to us. The experience is bound to be difficult, as it’s changing a status quo in people management and company budgeting.
The challenge, instead, is how to make a hybrid office increase productivity and lower costs while maintaining the live/work benefits employees and companies have realized. Do that, and everybody wins.
I’ve thought about how to design a hybrid office that allows for in-place collaboration while keeping remote workers engaged in day-to-day workflow. Stand-up meeting areas need to be video-friendly, I’m trying to increase spacing in conference rooms, because no one’s going to want to sit elbow-to-elbow in a conference room an hour. I’ve thought about hotel seating, since the company could downsize the office in a truly hybrid environment – with a hybrid environment, though, you’d want to have everyone in the office for one or two days a week, and you’re back to 1:1 seating. So, if you want to save on real estate costs, you need to be remote-first.
These are all technology solutions to social issues, however.
I’m managing a mixture of physical and virtual servers that requires the occasional office visit, and an usually the only person in the office. I sorely miss the collaboration and camaraderie of a busy office; While we won’t go back to 2019, I hope we emphasize mixing remote collaboration and on-premise workflow when we return to the office en masse.
I’d love to hear from anyone working in a company that’s back in the office 5 days a week, let me know in the comments what your experience with in-office work is.
[ via slate.com ]