Is Going to the Office a Thing of the Past? 3 Things to Put an Eye On in the Future of Commercial Office Space, Remote Work, and Building Team Cohesion in the Post-COVID Physical Landscape

The last couple years have shaken the business community to its core, even down to where “office work” is conducted. As many businesses closed their offices for COVID and worked from home, it became apparent that remote work was possible on a large scale, and many began to treat it as the new normal.

While many owners see that the era of the large, ubiquitous office is quickly coming to an end, and quickly, it’s not quite clear what the new normal will be. Traditional workflows will have to be rearranged, adjusted, and it remains to be seen who picks up which responsibilities, and from where.

Yes, many were excited to continue working while others couldn’t, there are still some questions about whether this new work-from-home model is feasible long term, or was suitable as a stop-gap measure in a time of crisis.

Even if you’re amongst those that have thought about this and have a plan of action, consider that your perspective might not be representative of the people you’re trying to hire! 

Perhaps this isn’t news to you and you already have a strong position on this, maybe even a plan of action with how you’re going to respond at your business. That’s great, but don’t kick back and call it a day. There are definitely pros and cons surrounding this issue, even some you might not have considered, that are worth hearing.

Cutting Costs with Remote Staff, or Spinning a Tale for Yourself?

The first consideration is usually the savings that will come from avoiding rent, insurance, and all the other costs associated with providing a physical office for employees to come to each work day.

That’s great, at first glance, but there are some drawbacks. Sometimes, you simply need a room to talk with everyone in person. There’s no way of getting around that. That might not seem like a hassle if you have to do it once, but if it’s multiple times a month that you’re looking to host a meeting, that can get pretty expensive in its own right. Not to mention it’s tedious, always trying to find a suitable restaurant, hotel banquet room, or similar facility to use. You can meet a single client in a cafe, but not a whole team of guests. It’s for exactly this reason that offices have been a part of American business culture for so many years now, their utility.

While I understand the cost savings still favors dropping the office, the amount of time spent looking for suitable places to host meetings can be substantial, and costly in their own right.

Cohesive Culture Gets Cut Too!

While zoom teams have worked when the participants all know each other already, it remains to be seen if remote office teams would work as efficiently when made up of strangers. Getting rid of all physical connection between your different employees could destroy the chance for future teams to build the bonds that have made your current team so successful.

All of business and commerce is just a series of individual relationships. We each have relationships with employees, clients, and colleagues.. The relationships between coworkers allows them to build an understanding of each other, and provide information and insight that might not be received if it were to have come from a stranger.

I know in my own life, if a certain person is telling me a certain thing, I can rest assured that it’s true. For example, if the guy who’s perpetually annoyed at client requests tells me that a request is reasonable, I’m going to calm down, because of who’s telling me

If I’m just working with a bunch of strangers, about whom I know nothing other than that we share an employer, it’s hard to get inspired to help them with anything.

There’s also the chance that younger employees will miss the opportunities to learn from more experienced workers. When there’s someone with 20 years of experience down the hall, an uncertain person is probably going to go ask their opinion. If it requires an email, a zoom call, screen sharing, etc… they might just skip the process and the question entirely.

Remember that if there’s no veteran workers to ask, that most likely means it’s your inbox that’s going to be flooded with questions

Employee Wishes: Often Ignored, Excellent Barometer to Guide Your Decisions

It’s often discussed what works for employers, but far less often for what suits employees. It’s important to recognize that your employees are a huge piece of the puzzle and your guess for what they want might not be accurate.

Believe it or not, a lot of people actually enjoy going to work. Of course, they’re not always thrilled about the work itself, but having somewhere to go makes people feel good. It makes them feel needed, it gets them out of bed. I’m not saying this from the point of view of a robber baron capitalist, I’m speaking from my own experience. After a couple days staying home, it can get heavy and I wish I had somewhere to go!

To Stay in My Space…

I don’t think the extremes on either side are the answer. It became obvious during lockdowns that many offices had been holding plenty of unnecessary meetings, yet there are some social, communal, and educational aspects of the office that are now being missed by rookies and veterans alike.

I think the answer will lie somewhere in the middle, as do many other publications discussing this topic at the moment. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss the growth of collective work spaces and try to see how well they actually work to give the best of both worlds.