The concept of working from home has been a hotly debated topic over the past few years, and some institutions have (falsely) claimed that remote work is the new normal. As someone with a long history of workplace strategy expertise and success, I can say without a doubt that moving from traditional places of employment to home offices – that are likely bedrooms, grocery stores, and wherever people claim to be while on the clock – is a knock to productivity and a death sentence to company culture.
I reject the idea that the movement toward remote work is necessary or permanent, and recent data supports this. Kastle Systems reported that office usage in 10 major metro areas neared 50% of 2020’s pre-pandemic attendance, demonstrating that workers and CEOs alike are ready to return to the office. Although in-office attendance is still lower than before the COVID-19 outbreak, the sharp increase in numbers and occupancy signifies that people are migrating back to the time-proven methods that work best for our businesses.
Like many other industries where teams perform hands-on duties, our work model at Clayco is not sustainable or operating at its best if team members cannot communicate and form authentic connections in person. Individuals do their best work in the office and can overcome challenges in a collective space. Especially in the construction sector, remote work renders most functions and projects a failure to launch.
Developing transformative strategies is essential for any workplace, and the most resourceful plans come from employee partnerships and participation. In a remote setting, it’s hard to share institutional knowledge or have water-cooler conversations where ideas and values can spark fresh perspectives. According to Harvard Business Review, a lot of information sharing happens through short, informal discussions between people throughout a typical workday, like when you bump into a coworker and ask a question that leads to a new and surprising solution. At Clayco, we see this happening while people are eating together or having a coffee. These underrated office opportunities are the backbone of corporate culture and help teams connect and reinforce the understanding of working toward a joint mission. When people feel connected to a company’s goal, it improves their overall work satisfaction.
Building a solid team takes planning and commitment and isn’t something that can happen overnight or behind a computer screen. To effectively assemble a unified workforce, you must invest time and money into cultivating an environment that enables engagement. When teams collaborate effectively, it is evident in the company culture, employee morale, and productivity. However, this can only be sustainably achieved in a space together to avoid digital burnout. Digital burnout is the feeling of anxiety, exhaustion, and apathy caused by spending too much time on digital devices. Returning to a physical workplace would help mitigate this increasing issue with more face-to-face interaction and a balanced workday.
Fostering connections between people via a cohesive and comfortable space to gather, brainstorm, bond, and evolve is crucial for innovation and reaching new goals. There is no replacement for the creativity that comes from working together, so it’s time to return to traditional workplace settings to connect and collaborate with colleagues who are only an arms-reach – not a video chat – away.
Could not agree more…At the outset of the Coronavirus Disease, working from home was an appropriate option for everyone at Krusinski Construction Company. In addition to all of the health and safety protocols that were mandated, we installed complete computer and IT capabilities for each KCC associate which enabled us to continue to provide services to every client without any interruption caused by the working-from-home option when necessary.
Most importantly, it enabled KCC associates to return to the office in a more timely manner where our unified workforce can be connected and continue to foster KCC’s Core Values and provide construction services to our clients.
As a member of the younger generation, here are my thoughts. Yes working in the office gives more room for relationship development and “water cooler talk” The reality is, a lot of people don’t need that EVERY day. People just want to be with their families and friends and working from home allows people to do more of that. The age of your identity being tied to your job is over. At parties and gatherings, the first question asked is what are your hobbies, etc. We are all actively trying to not ask what do you do for work when we first meet someone.
From my view, all of my friends love the hybrid model. You get the face to face time, but also the flexibility to WFH and have no commute. If you think that employees are spending all day at the grocery store, there is something wrong with the trust of your employees and the way you are hiring.
Also as a woman in a male-dominated field. Hybrid models gives working mothers and families way way more flexibility that could ever be offered by going into an office everyday. Most of the people I know who want to go into an office are my male coworkers who have stay-at-home wives and older children who do not need sitters anymore. The elimination of a commute can drastically change lives. Now employees have an extra hour or two!
If you are so keen on having everyone in the office think ‘Are you creating an engaging inclusive environment where people actually want to work?’ ‘Am I being inclusive of others who may be underrepresented in office spaces?’ ‘Am I doing enough to support my employees with children?’ ‘Is this so called “water cooler talk” only talk about sports or cars that might exclude women?’
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Tbh, it sounds like you just don’t understand remote work with the way you describe it.
You can have the same sort of connections with your coworkers remotely if you try. There’s no shortage of small talk opportunities in online hang out spaces. You even have opportunities to form those connections with people who live all around the globe instead of being limited to the people you happen to physically bump into.
And the idea that you can’t strategize digitally is laughable. It’s a skill that needs to be learned but digital strategy sessions can be just as powerful as in-person ones. If you own into the power of asynchronous communications, you can even involve more stakeholders while having a better paper trail, allowing for easier transmission of institutional knowledge with less knowledge loss when employees leave.
You’re just scared of what you don’t understand or have the skills for.
I completely disagree, water cooler talks are more like how are your kids, sports, politics etc. On the other hand if you are working from home you can set-up a meeting as a group or 1 on 1. This meetings have a properly defined agenda rather than informal talks at company. Onsite is tied to bosses who enjoy being bossy, micro-manage people. People need to work to live not live to work we have a lot going on in our lives. The claim that onsite equals more productivity is False especially for Software Development teams, they are more productive in a hybrid or remote setting.
Bob, I agree with what you say. We deal mostly with large corporate clients, and it has become harder and harder to get things done for them, because people are less and less available to provide quick answers to issues that arise on projects. It’s harder to get answers; harder to get paid; etc.
I think this will start to take care of itself, as companies that have the best collaboration and communication will start to lap the companies that have made this a priority. Those companies will start to struggle, or fail. The companies that thrive will be able to pay more, etc… I’m not saying the workplace doesn’t need to continue to evolve, but humans were designed to be together; and the fundamental parts of survival – can’t be “done from home”.