Is this the end of the office?
Why hybrid working, by its very definition, could be the solution we’ve been waiting for
Are we addicted to an institution we have proven in the past year is not necessary to encourage productivity, creativity, and happiness?
WHY DO WE NEED OFFICE SPACE?
I am hearing from more and more people that they are getting pushback against working remotely, with additional pressure to get back to the office — but why?
❓ To justify the cost for corporates paying for the office space
Corporate space was never 100% used by employees in the past. We hold space at 100% for all full-time employees, yet they were on the road, travelling, meeting clients, in meeting rooms, and consequently, almost 40% of office space sat empty at the best of times (sometimes more, depending on the team!)
❓ To keep an eye on employees
By now, many employees have not only proven their loyalty and commitment to their roles but have also proven they can be just as productive and efficient when working from home, in fact in some cases productivity went up! So surely this antiquated approach of needing facetime to prove commitment to the company is not needed anymore.
❓To increase feelings of being a team cohesion and connectedness
Okay, now we get to something I can get on board with! This is what matters in the end right? This is the role of offices in the end? This is the only point that still seems to resonate, the need for TEAM COHESION — we are social creatures and need social interactions.
However, are office environments really required to achieve this?
WHY DO WE NEED TO MEET IN PERSON?
Let’s consider the reasons we might need to meet each other, we need to:
📍Meet new colleagues that have been hired, getting to know someone and a sense of who they are, requires in-person interaction
📍Deepen relationships through scheduled coffee dates or lunches, trust is primarily accelerated through in-person contact
📍Conduct strategy meetings and have face-to-face discussions, to increase ease of discussion and increase buy-in
📍Collaborate with colleagues to move projects forward, innovation can be accelerated at an in-person meeting, riffing ideas off each other
📍Create team cohesion through team building events, these are often conducted off-site so would not impact the need for office space
However, none of these require office space and could be accomplished in one day or a few afternoons in the office, couldn’t they?
WHY DO WE NEED SOCIAL INTERACTION?
We all acknowledge that it is important in an increasingly digital world to maintain some social interaction.
As an introvert, it would be too easy for me to stay at home every day, and self-isolate even without a pandemic! It is where I feel most comfortable, get most creative, and gain energy. So having the ability to go out for a lunch meeting and coffee date is indispensable for me to feel connected to the “real world” and I must force myself to do this every week.
No argument here that to feel connected we need social interaction, it increases:
✔️ Mental health, helping elevate our mood, stave off loneliness and social isolation can increase happiness
✔️ Emotional balance, interacting with others and feeling supported, merely being physically close can improve your sense of feeling connected
✔️ Psychological Safety, knowing you belong to a company, a team, a group or community can give you a sense of security and confidence
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many studies on the need for social interaction. However, it comes back to a topic close to my heart that I continue to work on over the years:
Individuals must be motivated individually, not with one-size-fits-all
HOW CAN WE USE HYBRID WORK TO MEET INTRINSIC MOTIVATORS?
I believe that we must again look to the individual’s intrinsic motivators and meet their individual needs before trying to implement a “one size fits all” solution, even when it comes to hybrid working.
If an introvert works better at home, then provide the opportunity for them to join team meetings, and to have 1–2–1 coaching with their leaders, 1–2–1 with their teammates and then spend the rest of the week working from home.
If an extrovert works better from the office, then provide that space for them to be able to have quick conversations with their teammates that are present.
If someone needs structure and consistency then provide an assigned desk for them to come to when they are at the office.
If someone needs flexibility and is away from the office anyway on sales calls, then provide an open concept co-work space they can use when needed.
There are so many iterations of this, and it requires some self-examination and understanding, but it can work.
Bottom-up the employees need self-awareness to know what their ideal work environment looks like and understand their intrinsic motivation. Top-down managers and leaders need to understand how to meet those ideal work environment needs.
The beauty of hybrid working is that by its very definition — composed of different elements — it can be agile and fulfil every individual’s needs.
There is a fantastic opportunity here to provide individuals with the right format of hybrid work that works for them, the ROI of this would likely make up for the inconvenience of managing flexible schedules and work arrangements.
It is difficult to embrace change, and traditional institutions are struggling with allowing their employees the freedom to choose.
If you are an organization that can embrace hybrid working, educate your employees and then trust them to make the choice that works for them, while offering social interaction, then you will not only benefit from cost savings of letting office space go but also retaining employees who prefer to have a choice!
“The End of the Office” was sent to me via a subscription. I highly recommend Seth Godin’s Blog for inspirational and interesting thoughts in your inbox every day or follow him on LinkedIn!
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