Lately we’ve seen lots of obituaries for the office. The pandemic caused a massive shift to work from home (WFH) among knowledge and service workers. Teams are using communication apps like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams to stay productive. Even though employees are working more hours, people like having more control over their work schedules. They benefit from less commuting, even as the boundaries are blurring between work and home.
I believe reports of the office’s demise are premature for several reasons, but they all reflect the critical human need for connection. Last spring, a large number of Silicon Valley executives made very public statements indicating their changed minds on the need for an in-person workplace: “We’re working so well from home that we might never go back to the office.”
Didn’t they realize that the reason they could transition to 100% virtual teams overnight was that they had spent years building a shared experience among employees? It was the power of proximity that enabled employees to make the switch. Those companies had invested in their cultures, which carried them through.
After almost a year of remote working, we’re seeing a slow decay of connection. According to Gallup, remote employees are 7% less likely to see their connection to the mission of a company. Staring at a laptop screen with six other faces is inherently transactional, less spontaneous, and less human than working in an actual room with actual people.
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