The end of the office? Not a chance.

The end of the office? Not a chance. by Dean Broadhead

Onward is an exclusive content series authored by broadhead’s thought leaders, highlighting their unique perspectives on adapting, adjusting and pushing forward.

Written by Dean Broadhead | CEO

Our people returned June 1. They brought with them their laughter, compassion, learnings, energy and a reminder that in-person collaboration is valuable, thankfully back, and here to stay.

That said, our return was like the first day at a new school for many. There was anxiousness not knowing exactly how to feel after emerging from a 14.5-month cocoon. But for most, that feeling didn’t last. In short order that anxiousness was replaced with a sense of reinvigoration, as muscle memory of the efficiency and value of creative problem solving in person returned.

While we’re excited to get back to the office, we did so with lessons learned. We found value in employees having more uninterrupted work time to put heads down and bring ideas to life. We also found value in our people taking ownership of their responsibilities and making it happen. But we had employees mention that they missed those spontaneous opportunities to share an idea in the hallway that spur a solution for a client. Or those opportunities to mentor a colleague and just share a laugh.

So, like many, we’re back as a hybrid, hoping to maintain what we’ve gained while recapturing what our people felt they lost. Time will tell if we succeed.

Our hybrid model has us together in the office Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Working from wherever on Mondays and Fridays. We’re utilizing that model through Labor Day, at which point we’ll assess, and tweak if our learnings indicate we should. Did we pick the right days? The right number of days? In our eyes, the future of work is not likely to be solved overnight. It will be a work-in-progress as we see what works well, and what doesn’t, in our post full-time WFH world.

There will be companies that will take a different approach, perhaps shedding office space and assigning people to their home workspace forevermore. That’s fine too. There is no right or wrong here, only choice – for both companies and employees.

For leadership in the process of making these decisions now, our best advice is to pick a lane and be clear in communicating your goals for return early and often. As a reference point, we surveyed employees in early March on what they valued in WFH and what they lost. We gave them a two-month-notice of our plans to return June 1 so they could do what they needed to do to prepare. And we clearly articulated what we hoped to gain by the hybrid model we’re deploying today.

So far, so good. The reviews are positive one month in.

My parting thoughts: There are many reasons to return to the office, but productivity is pretty far down the list. It’s not about whether we can get the work done at home. We’ve been doing that for more than a year. It’s about collaboration and bigger thinking. It’s about community and culture. Perhaps most importantly, it’s about giving people mental relief and a separation of work and life, ownership of time that’s only theirs, free of evening TEAMS calls and a laptop that’s always on.

Ironic that a return to the office would contribute to work-life balance.