A New Day: Coming Back to the Office (and liking it)
There was a time not long ago where many professionals clamored to have flexibility in their work environment. In other words, they wanted to work from home, start their workday at different times and generally schedule their activities based on personal preferences. And historically, such an approach had never been widely adopted due to organizational processes and legacy drivers that somewhat dictated a regimented approach to the physical workplace environment.
Hello 2020, which saw changes in virtually every aspect of our existence around the world, and in particular, the way in which organizations were forced to pivot in managing their workforce. Every organization on the planet had to make significant adjustments as to how they kept their operations active while also protecting the health and well-being of their most important assets – their people. Traditional in-person businesses like banks and restaurants and medical offices quickly had to understand and implement an approach that could satisfy customer needs that did not require a face-to-face exchange. And while there were predictably some hurdles, largely most teams adjusted and moved forward. Want flexibility in your workday? You got it. A lot of it. The grind of a regimented schedule was quickly supplanted with extreme flexibility that also identified essential skills for success – individual discipline and resilience.
While the pressure of getting to a physical workplace on time may have diminished, there have been many other challenges that perhaps are even greater. An effective virtual workplace does not completely translate to “working from home in sweats and a t-shirt”. In fact, with web conference calls, there has been an even greater spotlight on having omnipresent professionalism that perhaps was previously “left at the office” prior to this new normal. And the unplanned but necessary “management” of family, pets and schedules has also presented unique challenges. Still, most have been able to survive and adapt. But as with everything, the only constant is change, and a new day is coming as it relates to workplaces.
Through these unique challenges, executive leaders and individual contributors alike have grown to understand that traditional methods have worked well for a reason. And while some of the virtual techniques have worked well, here are a few reasons why coming back to the office will happen:
It is rare to find large populations that prefer to exist individually in isolation. And yet, that is what the past year has forced upon many professionals. Many if not most people thrive by engaging in conversation on a variety of topics. Spontaneous “drive-bys” at the desk … lunches … coffee breaks … etc. People have missed those very important (and necessary) interactions.
Organizational Efficiency and Growth
It takes a very unique business that can have sustained growth while still operating in a virtual workplace. Executive leaders now realize that efficiency is better – and growth can be greater – simply by having teams physically in one physical workplace, for such things as quick team meetings, unplanned strategy sessions and so forth. Those things don’t just “happen” in a virtual world that inherently requires scheduling and planning.
A Need for Physical Separation between Work and Life
Many people unconsciously have portioned their regular days into sections – home, work, exercise, social and so forth – in that they prefer a distinct separation of those sections for their own method of organization and mindset. In other words, “leave it at the office” has real meaning to many when they are headed home to their families. With a virtual work environment, those “day parts” have diminished if not vanished. And with that change, many have struggled to adapt. A physical workplace provides boundaries to define the days of many professionals who desire that separation between work and their personal interests.
Personal Needs can (and will) be Accommodated
For some time, the design of the modern workplace has been trending towards providing features and amenities to attracting talented professionals. With the challenges of 2020, the reemergence of a physical work environment will require these features as compared to being optional. Upgrades in air circulation, clean physical environments and many other absolute necessities will be standard for physical environments. In this context, people will require such features to be present, or else they will simply move to another organization or continue with alternative work arrangements.
Thinking about these factors above and many others, there will be a move back to the office in the foreseeable future. Of course, organizations and their people will have to adjust, but there are key reasons why the physical workplace was established as the standard decades ago, and those same reasons still exist today and going forward – even against the backdrop of a global pandemic. At Greenstone, we recognize the challenges of organizations to continue moving forward while also being focused on the well-being of their teams. Contact us today to learn more about our perspectives on coming back to the office and to get updates on our current projects at 14th+Spring in midtown Atlanta and Kimball Place in Alpharetta.