The office is plotting a comeback
According to the headlines, the remote work discussion goes something like this: on one side you have the workers, happy to abandon their jobs if it means retaining their remote freedom. On the other side you have employers, cruelly attempting to drag workers back to the office against their will.
But that’s not true – and we all know it. The only people benefitting from this remote/in-office ‘war’ is the media, which so loves to capitalize on a tense situation.
In reality there are many reasons to stay remote, and just as many reasons to return to the office (at least on a flexible basis). Contrary to popular belief, the office is not necessarily some cold and evil place where people are bored and restless; it’s a social mecca where many have made their closest friends, acquaintances, and allies. It’s a place to be mentored, to learn the ropes, to build a community.
The past year should not erase all the good that the office once offered. So how is your career – and team – improved by being in the office?
Speak to (and impress!) your seniors/managers
Unless you’ve already earned a pretty high rank, you probably don’t interact with senior managers on a regular basis. You report to your manager, perhaps you speak on occasion with their manager, and you sometimes might meet with leaders from different departments. That’s usually where it ends…unless you’re in the office.
What reason would you have to Zoom call your CFO, unless you were explicitly working on some project relating to them? What excuse could you come up with to call them for a casual chat, without seeming like you’re completely wasting their time?
In the office these situations arise naturally. You run into people in the halls, in the kitchen, over lunch. You get to know what topics they enjoy. You can insert a comment without being pushy, you can casually ask their opinion on something without seeming tiresome. It’s the beauty of casual interactions, too often lost over Zoom – unless you make a concerted (and strategic) effort.
Quickly learn the ropes
This one’s for the new guys – the people who have sacrificed the most in our transition to remote work.
Instead of learning the full-picture office environment, new people now only learn what their manager deems necessary – the key features that they believe will make you an effective and productive contributor. But there’s so much more to learn than the basics of your jobs – all the unspoken cues, the reward systems, the way people like to be addressed, knowing when to be serious and when to be casual, understanding subtle but important distinctions in tone and demeanor. The list goes on.
There’s so much more to learn than knowing how to do your job – and much of it comes from the unspoken rules of the office.
Speak the language
One thing that has (potentially) suffered in the transition to remote work is culture, as defined by a unique set of rules and experiences shared by the people in a company. The less people spend time together, the more tenuous culture becomes.
This creates a split between new people and company veterans. The experienced staff know the language of the company; they know which words to use and which tactics to take to get stuff done. The newer people are left in the dark – and that’s not only a hindrance to their career, but also to their ability to integrate into and contribute to the team.
Build a community
Your office-mates might start out as strangers, but sitting next to them for weeks, months, years will change that.
At Proven, we’ve found that many of our former employees have recently been attending our happy hours and work events to rekindle that sense of community, which was lost after their offices went fully remote. This is not a unique situation – many people thrive off social interaction and are missing that part of their lives.
While it’s easy to deem a return to the office ‘unnecessary’ – and you may be right, from a productivity standpoint – this kind of thinking ignores so much of what the office has to offer. Conversation, friendship, exposure to different points of view, finessing social skills, getting us out of our own heads – this is the stuff we risk losing when we go fully remote. Any fully remote workplace will have to put intentional practices into place to overcome this culture threat.
Get out of your comfort zone, literally
Your home is comfortable. You spend the day working where ever you like, wearing whatever you want, taking breaks as you see fit. And that is amazing. We highly encourage doing this regularly, for your own sanity.
But there are still many benefits to getting uncomfortable. Putting on work clothes, looking like a presentable human being, talking to people you might disagree with – this does wonders for our confidence and, frankly, for our social skills.
Like most things in life, this isn’t a black and white issue. And the grey area is probably where the answer lies – somewhere between the two extremes, in a flexible work environment that encourages spontaneous conversation and face-to-face exposure in addition to independent work, at home, on your own schedule.
P.S. If you think this article was one-sided – you’re right! But only because we already published the pro-remote argument in all its glory. For that piece you can click here. Read them both, consider the pros and cons carefully, and make a decision that makes sense for you and your team. Happy to talk through your options – you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.