Why it’s important to get back to the office
Remote working was already finding its footing in workplace strategies. But in 2020, everything changed and businesses were forced to shut their offices and switch to running operations from home. Even when lockdown restrictions were eased gradually, many companies preferred remote or hybrid working for their employees. But, with the pandemic now hopefully coming to an end and the government advising us to go back into the office, is the what employees really want?
Employees are resistant to return and according to a recent study, 29% of people say they are likely to switch jobs if their employers require them to work exclusively onsite. It is true that more flexibility in where, when and how we work is a good thing. It contributes to our ability to spend time with family or structure our days to better accommodate the school run or getting some household chores done at lunchtime.
But coming back to the office has some significant benefits for employees - not just employers. There are many benefits of working remotely, but it’s important to remember there are still benefits to having an office space that brings people together. In this article we will look at some of the reasons why a physical office space is as important as ever and why it’s important to get people back to the office.
A sense of belonging
An element of the fulfilment you get through community is a sense of belonging - feeling connected, united and accepted by your colleagues and co-workers. But a sense of belonging doesn’t just come from being in a group, it arises from a shared sense of social identity with your team at work.
Offices give colleagues the chance to bond and provide great environments for team building. In the modern work, we still crave connections and presence together is also helpful in building relationships. Familiarity and regular contact face-to-face tend to increase acceptance and trust.
Heath & wellbeing
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you have a need for connections with others. You will want varying amounts of time with others based on your preferences, but research has demonstrates if we don’t have adequate time face-to-face, we experience declines in wellbeing, increases in disease and reduced lifespans.
Being together also makes us all smarter. Researchers at the University of Michigan found when people spent more time interacting with others—talking, socialising and connecting—they displayed improved mental function. Interactions literally increased cognitive performance due to the mental processes involved in listening, empathising, thinking and responding, which are elements of a discussion or conversation.
Offices provide better environments for professional development. Junior employees get a first-hand look at experienced employees dealing with different situations and solving problems, which is a great learning experience. There is no substitute for learning on the job and online courses can’t provide that. It helps in their professional development and benefits the organisation in the long run.
The best organisations value and respect employees and their contributions no matter where they’re working. But it is also human nature to pay attention to what’s directly in front of us. We are most focused on what we can see, hear and experience most immediately, and this has implications for your visibility and your career. Being in the office provides you with better opportunity to be on the radar of bosses looking to expand their team or promote key talent.
Collaboration & teamwork
Digital tools for communication and collaboration have helped us in a smoother transition to remote working. But communication is also simpler and more efficient in person. Collaboration is so much easier when your team is in the same room. The give and take of ideas to solve real business problems feels more organic and exciting with team members. Also, employees are less likely to neglect their responsibilities when surrounded by colleagues.
Your performance, and that of your colleagues, is also likely to be positively impacted by the experience community. These performances are often most rewarding when up against it working to tight deadlines and solving problems using our talents, which are sources of happiness and fulfilment. In addition, work colleagues have a lot to teach each other - no matter what your seniority with a company.
Get back to where you once belonged
Technology helps us connect, but is inadequate at times working remotely because we can’t read non-verbal cues as well as we can in person. In addition, we’re limited by delays, technical glitches and that pesky mute button on video calls. Offices have all the amenities and technologies for in-person working, which is not possible to have remotely. In offices, you also get connections, engagement and being with our colleagues, not to mention many other facilities which are not available at home, such as ergonomic premium furniture.
When people first returned to the office last year the focus was on creating a safe environment to stop the spread of germs, with protective screens and social distancing measures in place. Now the focus is more on creating the buzz people can get from working in the office, with new ideas for high energy collaboration and furniture for social spaces.
Many companies are piloting new spaces as part of their return to the office this year, with furniture at the forefront of the redesigns. These spaces often sit empty parts of the day because they are typically used just for dining, individual work, some quiet time or for team meetings. But by looking at under-utilised spaces in new ways, these areas can be redesigned as social hubs that will inspire people and provide high-performing settings where they can reconnect with their colleagues, as well as collaborate effectively.
Physical office spaces are invaluable for both your team and your customers. It has to do with It is the need we have for each other and to be united around something that matters. It is also the positive obligation to contribute to the group and the culture, and to share our talents and build relationships. The opportunity to return to the office doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing prospect. Some continued work from home will be a positive outcome of all we’ve learned over the last 2 years, but don’t underestimate what you’ll gain by coming back, and by giving back to your community.