While work from home has been the name of the game over the past 5 months, a lot of speculation surrounds the future of the workplace. Are companies seeing the same productivity from their remote employees now as they did back in April? Does the offsetting savings in real estate costs have other, deeper impacts?
I’ve been hearing from many folks that most of us are set to work remotely through the end of Calendar 2020. But, where do we go from there, assuming COVID-19 is under control? Assuming the existence of safe workplaces, herd immunity and/or the presence of a vaccine, why shouldn’t we get back to the office as we once knew it?
I recognize that every business is unique, but we have seen a marked difference in having our employees in the office, versus 100% remote. The office “buzz” isn’t just a buzzword. The ability to quickly assemble to discuss an issue at hand has proven difficult with all parties remote, and jumping from call to call to call. Unscheduled/impromptu meetings are our biggest change drivers, and allow us to react to issues on the fly. Sure, everyone hates the dreaded “meeting that could have been an e-mail”. Even worse is a meeting of that nature that has to be pre-scheduled, because of remote work. You almost guarantee folks will be checked-out and certainly multi-tasking.
Above and beyond all of this is the physical disconnect from our co-workers. I’m not a biologist or a psychologist, but I’m sure there is a physiological effect from reduced human interaction. Additionally, not everyone is a self-starter. Some folks need to be motivated by seeing their co-workers getting after it everyday. Trust me, I have worked remotely for a good chunk of my career now, and even I have those days.
The bottom line is, we can have as many Zoom Happy Hours as the platform will let us for free, and it doesn’t replace the pre-COVID office environment. Let’s safely and scientifically get back there, so we can all be in better spirits, be more productive, and further drive efficiencies from what we’ve learned through all of this.