As we gain more control over the Covid 19 pandemic, organizations across the country are exploring their approach to in-office work. Over a year of work from home (WFH) has proven employees are capable of getting their jobs done and keeping companies moving forward. What’s less measurable is the opportunity cost of the lost serendipitous interactions and creative problem solving that occur spontaneously and the impact of employee satisfaction or dissatisfaction with WFH arrangements on long-term productivity.
We’ve seen in-office work plans run the gamut, from 100% WFH to 100% in office, with most organizations somewhere in between. Decisions appear to be largely driven by the Human Resources function, who of course should lead, but the plan should also consider the importance of collaborative and creative work to the specific business. Employees can be gathered in office for intentional collaborative ideation or development workshops or key meetings, but typically these formal collaborations are only the tip of the iceberg. One way to consider the extent to which informal collaborations drive value is the type of work an employee does: are they managing and processing work largely via computer, or are they managing the creation or evolution of concepts and plans? Those who manage “things” are typically largely independent from the need for input from others and can clearly work more or all their days at home (if they want). But those whose work improves with the input and perspective of others should have more time being proximate in a physical space with those others to maximize those spontaneous interactions. Scheduling a Zoom or MS Teams video call just can’t compete with the unplanned innovation and problem solving that naturally occurs with proximity. Flexibility is great, but also ensure employees and the organization are set up to succeed into the future too.