It’s already been 18 months since we moved to work from home for just two weeks and then go back to the office.
It was in my previous-to-previous company. Good times.
Now, eighteen months later, I’m thinking how much I’ve changed from that perspective. I still bitch with good friends or two, fellow managers, about how great it would be to have a running office where we can see our whole team at least a few times per day. But the more I think, the more I convince myself that I’m lying (to myself, too) about how happy I’d be if we go back to the office. Regularly. For a few days a week.
Having people around is excellent. These eighteen months taught me that it’s not just excellent; it’s critical for everyone’s success there.
Yes, we can Zoom (or Teams, or Hangout) five times per day. We can show dashboards, and we can discuss until we drop dead under our standing home desks. We can make fun with our pets, kids, or wives, who walk in our rooms barking, or playing, or half-naked (in this matching order, I hope).
Yes, all that above cannot replace in-person brainstorming or talking about work, or just sharing funny things, which happened during the weekend. We need that from time to time.
But any employer should be super-careful if they try (or dare?) to add a mandatory in-the-office requirement to their “new normal” work rules.
I am not sure that I’d be ready to accept such rules unless, of course, I’m hard-pressed by other reasons. I mean, I should have damn good reasoning why I should work in such a schedule. E.g., no one else would take me, or they’re paying me a butt-load of money, or . But in normal circumstances, in today’s super-hot employment market, I doubt I’d accept an offer, which would require me to be present at the office “every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday,” for example.
And this is me! Senior manager, and as well (almost) senior citizen. The people, who’re at the cutting edge of software engineering technologies, and who’re like twenty years younger than me will just laugh if an employer tries to get them to stay at work following such a schedule.
Yes, things have changed. Many people in IT will never consider a job offer without total work-time flexibility. I won’t either. I am just saying.
Yes, it will require learning how to work in a new way. It will take time. It will cost money. But in the end, we will know how to do it.
We will learn how to synch up with colleagues on which day we’d like to sit together and discuss in person the challenging issues.
We will learn which issues we can discuss online and which topics we must brainstorm in person.
We will also learn which issues do not require discussion, but just someone from the team to sit down, think, propose/evaluate/showcase, and then call for a mutual decision.
I doubt offices will ever “die.” So far, every single company needs this “focal physical point” of their business. There’re a few exceptions there, but the count is so low it just (still) proves the main point: the companies need physical representation, just like we, the people, (still) have physical bodies.
But the work rhythm already changed. For better or for worse, knowledge workers will not return daily hanging in traffic because they need to go and “do” eight hours at work.