Redefining the Office

Remember this video from a long time ago?

Many have thought it prophetic for a while, and so much more so in the past two years. Those of us who have been used to working remotely for a while always knew that we would get to where we are now, but this terrible pandemic has managed to accelerate it by about 10 years. If it can be said that something has awful as Covid could give us something positive, I think that this might be it.

I’m not going to belabor the statistics about how much more productive many people are when working from home…that’s been written about ad nauseam lately. That data is just fact: workers are more productive, happier and healthier without commuting to an office, with the flexibility to live wherever they want. We finally have that flexibility in many industries, but it’s too early to celebrate our newfound future just yet, because there are going to be efforts to limit it. I think that those efforts are misguided.

If you’ve followed the news, you’ve seen it happening already. Several very prominent companies are beginning to require employees to return to the office, selling a hybrid work approach as though it were a perk. This is despite research showing that even a hybrid environment is less preferable that being fully remote. Hybrid just isn’t a smart move. And given that most workers, even those at Apple, are pushing back on being required to be in an office at all, that really only leaves one option.

My point is that this is about the workers. I know some colleagues who prefer to work in a dedicated workspace that is not their home. Even they are happier with no commute, in some cases getting 6 + hours back to spend with their families by not having a take a train to work. I think that the future of work has arrived, and we need to embrace it.

And by that, I mean that offices are gone.

To companies that are struggling with embracing this future and don’t know what to do without workers in the office, allow me to suggest this: Face-to-face interaction for work is the wrong metric by which to measure success. The correct metric is work getting accomplished, projects being completed, and a high quality of work. It is possible to do this without seeing your colleagues in person, face-to-face. I know it is, because I’ve worked on distributed teams, teams in which I never saw colleagues around the globe in person. Some of the best work that I’ve been privileged to be a part of came from those teams. Judging one’s productivity by how much time they spend in an office is backward thinking.

We were pushed into this future much more quickly than was comfortable, much more abruptly than we were ready for, and it hasn’t been without its growing pains. The solution, though, isn’t to go back. The solution is to continue to dissolve the geographic, and even time, boundaries around our work lives. When or where we’re doing our work doesn’t matter, the quality of the work does. And, more importantly, the quality of our lives matter…time spent with family and friends and hobbies, time not being locked into a 9-5 grind.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that, when the future arrives, going backward just isn’t an option, no matter how much some would like it to be. So, here’s to good work…wherever, and whenever, you do it.

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