It’s been two years since we were sent home from work for two weeks. We were collectively wrong about the two weeks, but many workers have been relieved. We learned so much about work over the last two years.
We found that working remotely is not only possible, it’s preferred. Workers are more productive, and overall, they’re happier. We can create customized work environments that work best for us. Commuting is no longer required. And, it’s cheaper for employers. One of the only good things to come from the pandemic has been the flexibility and work life balance introduced with work from home.
So, why are employers now trying to drag their employees back to the office?
Many companies say they need people to be in person in order to form better relationships. Some say it will make us more productive. Others say we need to be in “the building” in order to get real work done. But, what is really going on here? If a company is still in business after two years of work from home, it has been more than proven that work from home is possible.
Returning to the office appears to be driven from two places. Within the organization, older managers struggle with the remote transition more than anyone else. Outside of the organization, cities are struggling to keep their downtowns thriving without business commuters.
This is the problem with both. Neither takes into account the needs and wants of the individual worker. And, both deny the fact that it has now been proven that working from home is possible. Both companies and cities need to become more creative in their problem solving. Rather than chase the past, what exists in the future?
If a company feels that employees are disconnected, that company should look for new ways to connect folks. Perhaps they could schedule more teambuilding activities via video. Or, maybe they could bring everyone together once a month for an in person event.
For struggling downtown areas, what other options exist to revive the economy? Housing is certainly expensive. Perhaps empty office buildings could be repurposed as less expensive apartments. Maybe there are other ways to revitalize downtowns.
We can no longer live in the past. Fighting with employees who prefer to work from home only serves one purpose. It will be the reason those employees apply for jobs at other companies. There are too many options to settle for something that’s not what the employee prefers. And, it’s too late to convince anyone that we need to be together to be productive. That is just not true.
For many organizations, this will be a difficult learning process. They will force employees to come back to work. Those employees will leave. Then, the same organizations will struggle to find anyone who wants to sit in their seats at work.
Listen to your people and learn the lesson.