Remote working versus returning to the office

As society starts looking forward at both living alongside Covid-19 and beyond it, the benefits of the shift that society has been taken through are varied. However, there is consensus that the forced consequence of lockdown and thus working from home has caused a major transition in the way both businesses and individuals think about what work life balance means, how precious our time is and how we can best maximise it.

In these times, as with many subject matters in society, there are a lot of voices from the extremities of this conversation, the voices of those who never want to return to the office environment and those who feel lonely and isolated as they work from home. But for most, there is a need to balance the benefits of our new found freedom and empowerment against the energy, interaction and enjoyment of spending time with colleagues in the workplace.

We are starting to hear from businesses who are evaluating the risk of returning to the office environment from all angles and are setting timescales as to how they envisage this return happening and in what format. The conversation that seems to be forgotten in the midst of these announcements is the benefits of the office environment. It has been established that the fear of individual’s output and efficiency working from home was not realised. We have also established that regimented hours of work need to be modified as the internet has bought flexibility that supersedes ‘clocking on and off’. In fact, it has almost gone the other direction where regimented hours are needed to avoid people burning out from not having separation from their work and personal lives.

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So, returning to the benefits of the office environment and the one overriding aspect that cannot be replicated by any number of virtual meetings or digital communication – the ability to communicate not only through words but also through body language. We seem to have forgotten how the energy of a room drives new ideas and momentum for individuals and groups to achieve goals that at the beginning seemed far reaching. There is no doubt that meetings where people are physically present are missed and this will be a major benefit of a return to a physical office for a period of time every week.

The team meeting is a chance to generate energy, ideas and positivity outlooks which can sustain and invigorate all the team members, especially if they are having tricky conversations or situations during these turbulent times. The critical aspect is to see a team meeting as a chance for conversation and discussion rather than as a reporting mechanism for the team leader.

A meeting which is about checking in is a function that can be achieved physically or virtually but should not be seen as any benefit for either the team members or the vision of the company. This comes from a meeting where everyone attending understands they have a voice and an opinion, the joy of the physical team meeting is that this culture and messaging is delivered in ways that currently, are neither feasible nor something that people are comfortable with via the medium of the virtual.

For any team, the energy derived from a meeting in a physical office space is something that should be embraced and championed as a benefit. It gives justification and purpose as to the return to physical office life being incorporated alongside the working from home culture and the benefits that they bring together rather than being presented as binary choice.

Nick Gold, managing director of Speakers Corner

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