Many people consider going to the corporate office an inherent aspect of work. Among these people are those who attribute their productivity to working in the office. As the head of a company that mostly works remotely, I know that there are aspects of working in a dedicated office that cannot be replicated in a virtual setup.
Why should we expect the corporate office to remain relevant in the future? Essentially, companies with an office space foster collaboration and openness among their members. The traditional corporate office also effectively cultivates company culture and develops social cohesion, allowing employees to work better.
Unfortunately, lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 forced many to work from home. Andrew Segal points out three issues with work from home setup. First, people can easily get distracted. Second, labor laws are tricky, and people can only work for a set amount of time. Lastly, fostering cooperation and work relations can be difficult. These difficulties can lead to people feeling burned out. With these issues in mind, industries are not keen on going remote fully. Some things are best addressed by meetings in a physical office. Read on to learn about 50 reasons why the future of work is in the corporate office.
Collaboration in the Corporate Office
In Is the Future of Work Remote, Corporate Office, or Work from Anywhere, Jonathan Schultz & Chris Herd both agree that how we worked in the office reflects the analog era. They encourage companies to take advantage of new technologies in their corporate offices. Through this, employees are given a space to feel empowered to work and to be productive. An interview with Chris Diming emphasizes that the office is geared towards collaboration. With this in mind, some other benefits of the corporate office include:
1. Having a chance to socialize with subordinates, peers, and superiors alike.
2. Being able to promote deeper bonds with others.
3. Being able to cultivate a cooperative workplace culture, which cannot easily be done when working remotely.
4. Colleagues communicating better because of deeper social interactions.
5. Having considerable opportunities for human interaction, which can increase general well-being.
6. Being able to easily amending company policies to suit employee needs.
7. Effective collaboration among employees because they are together.
8. Changing an organization policy is straightforward.
9. Holding meetings with ease because everyone is in one location.
10. Having more collaborative opportunities.
The workplace provides an employee with a sense of belongingness and camaraderie. It allows them to interact with people as they work. Furthermore, work-related questions and clarifications can be answered immediately. As social beings, we can engage better when we’re face to face. As much as technology offers video calls and private messaging, we have to keep in mind that this is not the most fundamental way of communicating.
Corporate offices are here to stay, albeit with some changes. First, corporate office culture has to be modified to reflect safety and health protocols due to the pandemic. Next companies must think about ways to integrate technology in how they work. Overall, the future of work will offer a similar environment in the corporate office, with subtle modifications to reflect the times
Measuring Flexibility and Productivity
It is difficult to measure productivity in a remote setup, let alone outcomes. Chris Herd observed that productivity was traditionally measured through time spent in the office. However, working remotely removed this relatively simple way of measuring productivity.
Companies employed KPIs, checklists, objectives, and outcomes to measure productivity. However, some industries struggle with these metrics; without the right tools or parameters for measuring productivity, it is difficult to assess employees in a remote setup. Employers face the difficulty of applying different sets of measures for their employees’ output and outcome. Working in an office, therefore, simplifies and streamlines issues of productivity. The following are reasons why the corporate office is a practical and straightforward approach to work:
11. Productivity is easily measured and quantified while in the office.
12. There is no way to accurately measure productivity in a work-from-home setup.
13. Onboarding is easier when you can meet new hires face to face.
14. Working as a team and asking questions are easier in the office.
15. Working remotely is challenging for interns and fresh graduates. They may need to be trained and monitored face to face.
16. Communication channels are more open in the office.
17. On-site employees understand their roles better and are therefore able to integrate into the company culture.
18. It is challenging to check the pulse of the organization outside the office.
19. Work time is fixed; therefore, boundaries and expectations are set and met.
20. Some people perform better in the corporate office than at home.
Every industry has its own way of measuring productivity. Nonetheless, if you have no clear way of measuring the outcome, measuring time is your best bet. With this, clocking in at the corporate office is the easiest and most practical way of monitoring your organization’s productivity. Want to learn more about employee productivity? Here’s an article we wrote about whether or not we should redefine productivity.
The Pitfalls of Remote Work
Companies should shift their focus on how to incentivize individual employees to perform well. How else can the company thrive if the employees aren’t motivated to work? Companies should address the issue of their employees’ well-being.
There should be policies and campaigns that promote the mental health and well-being of employees in corporate offices. Aside from this, the office’s physical environment plays a huge factor in pushing the employees to achieve high performance in their respective tasks. Without the convenience of having other colleagues support you, you may not perform as well. In Is remote working overhyped, Ken van Someren emphasizes that team building activities are designed to improve employees’ camaraderie, making them work better together. Here are some reasons why it’s easier to care for employee well-being and build team spirit in an office rather than in a remote setup:
21. The pandemic remote work setup limits your ability to visit coffee shops and co-working spaces.
22. Working from home can make you feel isolated and detached from society.
23. Remote work can lead to undetected, disengaged staff.
24. Remote work blurs the line between work and rest.
25. Remote work causes digital fatigue. Stress from work versus stress from home becomes indistinguishable.
26. It is easier for management to monitor employees who are working in an office.
27. In remote work, there can be a lack of discipline when it comes to producing outputs.
28. The physical and mental effects of a bad home environment are exacerbated.
29. Personal hygiene and an ergonomic workspace are often neglected when working from home.
30. Outsourcing through remote working is not cost-effective.
31. Remote work is great as a novelty, but it becomes uncertain as time passes.
Before the strict lockdown restrictions, people enjoyed the novelty of remote working. They found it fun and engaging. They even felt as if they were more productive when working remotely. There’s the added benefit of being able to focus on their health as they work remotely. They cherished the freedoms they did not have when they were working in the office. However, a few months in, uncertainty and difficulties surrounding remote work arose.
Because of remote working, people tended to work longer. This phenomenon is called “digital fatigue.” Video conferences came one after another. This is undoubtedly tiring for most people. And in worse cases, digital fatigue can induce burnout. All these occur without the benefits of social cohesion afforded by the corporate office setup.
For those who don’t have a suitable environment to work in, working anywhere can be bad for an employee’s physical and mental well-being. For instance, employees who work in their bedrooms or kitchen counters aches and pains in their body. These pains then become distractions to work.
Trust and Social Cohesion
When working remotely, simple tasks become onerous, causing them to pile up and ultimately become more taxing to finish. This cycle can go on repeat indefinitely. When working in the corporate office, asking for inputs from other people is easy. Outputs are delivered more quickly when everyone freely shares information.
In Trust & Competence at Work and How it Relates to Employee Performance, Andrew Mawson emphasizes that trust is “a belief that somebody is going to positively act in a way that you expect them to.” With free-flow communication and deeper relationships established in a corporate office, trust is fostered. The following are reasons why the corporate office can foster better organizational cohesion:
32. Most great ideas come from sitting in a room full of co-workers.
33. Because of idea diversity and brainstorming, people are encouraged to be more creative.
34. Employees from different demographics are able to bounce ideas off each other. This leads to more valuable outputs.
35. Employees have already learned and adjusted well to habits and practices in an office setup.
36. There is a fundamental barrier to new ways of working. It takes time and resources to surpass this.
37. Trust is better developed in a physical office, ensuring a smooth flow of information.
38. Connections in face-to-face and real interactions increase employee wellbeing.
39. It is difficult to succeed in business when you do not see your team.
40. People can establish stronger relationships and have emotional connections in the office.
In our interview with Jonathon Hensley, we found out that signs of fatigue and stress are more noticeable when working remotely. The corporate office offers a kind of solace that working somewhere else cannot. It provides a space for employees to connect and interact with like-minded individuals. Indeed, it’s much harder to form deeper connections remotely.
Social trust falls short in the current work from home setup. It’s mostly caused by misinformation and constantly changing data. This distracts workers from the tasks that they should be working on. Lack of continuity in terms of information given and received makes it all the more challenging for employees to remain productive. This phenomenon results in the corrosion of the social relations between the employers and the employees, with the latter becoming more disengaged. An employee-centric workplace would be close to impossible in the remote work setup.
Furthermore, social cohesion is an important aspect that corporate offices provide. Marcel Mauss’s gift theory can be applied here. It refers to the act of providing others with something in order to facilitate social cohesion. These rituals found in the corporate office are almost impossible to translate when working remotely. To learn more about social cohesion in the workplace, check out: How Trust and Competence at Work Relate to Employee Performance.
The Hybrid Model Option
The hybrid model is a type of setup wherein employees can choose to work in the designated office space or elsewhere. Put simply, this model combines office work with remote work. However, if implemented poorly, it can pit employees against each other. Workplace culture may also be adversely affected because of the hybrid model.
In our discussion with Chris Diming, the key points of a hybrid model are communication and collaboration are stressed. However, when this has not been previously established and agreed upon in the workplace, it confuses the employees. Companies have to know their organizations’ culture before deciding to shift to this model to address this confusion. Even if they decide to do so, they will still need to have a corporate office. Here are more reasons why the corporate office will stay for the long-term:
41. Choosing where to work can be overwhelming.
42. People value having a work family that they can connect with.
43. People need routines and habits. They can cultivate this more in the office.
44. The hybrid model creates division due to unbalanced work shifts and potentially unequal loads.
45. People can separate work and play better in the office.
46. Team productivity is just as essential as individual productivity.
47. Hybrid work dilutes the benefits of being in the office.
48. The hybrid setup can be the worst of both worlds.
49. Remote working mostly benefits knowledge-based work only.
50. Remote work doesn’t essentially induce remote operation.
In workplace anthropology, experts coin the term everyday diplomacy. It refers to the constant negotiation of differences and perception of differences. Workplaces can use such a concept in order to address problems within the office. Informal interactions are helpful in these instances. This is because people are more relaxed and open. An example of this can be the water-cooler talks employees have in the corporate office.
While corporate offices will most likely remain in the future, there is a high chance that the nature of work will change, emphasizing caution and social distancing. Offices should consider disassembling such that there will be less worker density per office.
In Is Your City Moving to A Suburb Near You, Andrew Segal notes that the shape of work is going to look very different. In particular, offices will lose their density and will become disassembled.
Andrew shares that during the early 90s, a typical office space had three to four people per thousand square feet. At present, the trend for offices in the suburbs have eight to nine people per thousand square feet, whereas cities easily fit twelve. However, with the pandemic in mind, this set-up is going to end. We’re now going to go back to more personal workspaces. We won’t be seeing six people lined up two feet from each other any time soon.
Another trend that’s going to change is companies trying to put everyone in the same place. There used to be a densification. Now, we’re going towards a different direction. A company may choose to have smaller offices in several locations. Because offices are more spread out, this allows the possibility that the corporate office of the future may be closer to home.
Andrew ends by saying that while we may not be working in the same place, we will still be working from offices. And this is particularly important because although the work from home setup sounds amazing in theory, issues like distractions, labor laws, and onboarding new people may hinder quality work.
Through face-to-face interactions, employees can interact and collaborate more freely. This results in better outputs and higher productivity.
And so, despite these possible changes, corporate offices are still the future of work.
As an employee, will I be able to work well in a corporate office?
Definitely. You can do so by:
• Building relationships by interacting with your coworkers
• Seizing opportunities for collaboration
• Asking questions and voicing your opinions
• Focusing on deep work through strict schedules and boundaries
• Understanding your company culture and assimilating to it
As an employer, how can I incentivize my employees to work in the office?
First, maintain and improve employee relations. Make sure to keep them motivated using incentives. Next, set your workplace up for success by focusing on your organizational dynamics. To know more, read: What’s the Purpose of an Office and When Should a Company get One?
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