A return to the office: Why we need a face-to-face work relationship
A return to the office. After the past year, it might seem like a strange thing to say, much less write a blog about. It is a real about-face from what we have heard for the last year.
It is fair to say that the prominence and popularity of remote work and virtual working environments was the result of a majority of the workforce not knowing how the pandemic was going to pan out. We were all facing a lot of unknowns, and improving remote and project management technologies gave us the opportunities we needed to keep working and to keep people safe.
Now, as we have settled into this “new normal” and many people believe in the continuing viability of working from home, we need to have the discussion: Is remote work really that beneficial and what are we losing? How are employees and employers suffering by not initiating a return to the office in some capacity?
How stable is your platform?
Where we work, developing a working environment that is conducive to efficiency, creativity and general working comfort is important.
We do not do our best work while under duress. We don’t achieve what we could otherwise achieve when we don’t have the right tools for the job. That is as true for an insurance actuary as it is for a skilled carpenter.
The simple fact is, consistent working environments yield better results because contributors can work under the assumption and with the confidence that the resources they need will be there when they need them because their employer has designed a support system that anticipates their needs.
When working from home, as opposed to a return to the office, we may not be able to provide ourselves with the consistency we need because our homes are often created to enable a life removed from occupation.
The work life balance
Now, while it is true that some individuals can integrate their work into their life in an efficient and seamless manner, for the majority of us, it is a prospect that, while not altogether untenable, would be an ineffective use of our time and limited energy.
We all need to step away, now and again. Making your home your workplace eliminates the often beneficial practice of saying, “We’ll come back to this tomorrow.” Having a place separate from your personal life, a place designated for work and all the stress that can go along with it, allows for a greater degree of relaxation and recovery when we do go home.
As connected as we are, a return to the office, when all is said and done, establishes a hard separation between work and home, and ultimately allows us to be more present in our own lives and those we care for.
The human element
Human beings are built to be face to face. We are made to discuss, to interact, to engage in conflicts and resolve those conflicts having learned something. A greater understanding of social cues and group dynamics comes from the complex interactions we employ by simply being in the same space.
A return to the office shouldn’t be about micromanagement or distrust. It should be about the opposite. Those who provide great working environments and great company cultures create spaces where talented individuals can grow and are provided the resources they need to realize their most effective professional selves.
In purely virtual workplaces, delegation and project management are taking the place of community, and we are not better for it.
There is a value in a return to the office. There is comradery that is fostered during difficult periods. There is laughter that comes from the infectious sharing of a joke, meme or a story you heard. There is the satisfaction you feel when a project reaches completion and we’re all in the same room to feel it happen. There is the encouragement our teams give us, just because they see we might be struggling that day.
We are supposed to be around other people while we are working and while we are living. Building strong relationships with the folks you work with, finding effective mentors and developing reactive support systems are not things that come easily when we are stuck at the other end of a screen.
At The James Allen Companies, we want to encourage you to consider how a return to the office might affect your professional development and personal wellness.