By Rachel Varrilly Gierula
Canter back a couple of years and I regularly Worked from Home once per week; with all the associated, pre-pandemic, feeling-a-bit-guilty-not-being-in-the-office, that went with it. But, our home for many of us has been our only office for the past 12 months. Presenteeism versus Productivity debates have been silenced. We’ve balanced our laptops on kitchen units; knees; a pile of books; the dogs back etc; and we’ve carved out a bit of office in our homes. And now we’re going back.
Over the past month I’ve seen lots of articles about ‘coming out’. Coming out of our Work from Home environments into our office-offices. They’re pretty much without fail asking ‘are we ready’. And it’s a really interesting question. During the past 12 months my learnt-extrovert has put her feet up and reclined into a state of social torpor. My natural-introvert has raised her head, and got into the swing of minimal human contact, time and 2 metre, boxed. In going back, are we in danger of office stimulation overwhelm, and are our offices still fit for purpose?
It’s time for employers and employees to have some really good conversations about what office life looks like going forward. We know that everything we need to do can pretty much be done remotely; and many work tasks completed as well or better. Yet we also know that some things are so much more productive and joyful in a face-to-face space. For example, collaborative product building; team goal setting, and some aspects of learning.
I believe we’ve become more self-managed over the past year, so moving back to office can’t be a ‘tell’ moment. Great employers will contract with their employees about what office time will look like when we return. Here’s a checklist of some of things to consider:
- Have I consulted the team? Which elements of being home based do they want to retain? Which aspects of being in the office are meaningful to them?
- What could our operating model look like? Does home become the default colleague location? How often do we need to be in our work office? Can we reduce days in, and, our carbon footprint?
- Are our pre-Pandemic core hours still relevant? If not, what colleague and company benefit could that unlock?
- How do we use our office space? Do we reconfigure desks to safe collaboration spaces, and book out for team days? Is dress code still a thing?
- What mental health safeguards are in place for anyone feeling overwhelmed, or unsafe?
- What tech has served us well, and what not so much? What do we need to future proof great connections and collaborations with colleagues and clients?
For inspiration here’s an article about distributed team working at Autommatic. They have over a thousand employees in 75 countries, and guess what? They don’t have an office!