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 a leader 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 old habits that worked 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 workers 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 for institutional knowledge to be shared or to 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. 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.