2020 Vision and Returning to Offices

After nearly a year of working from home, returning 50% (and now 75%) of staff to offices is confusing.

Do we want to go back to our offices?

Do we work better at home?

Do we need our offices?

Will the value of offices and bricks and mortar property be devalued?

New habits are hard to break.

And lately…. and this is weird….I’ve been too busy to go to the office!

With 2020 vision most of us feel that we can successfully work from home, and what follows is that we don’t need our offices, and therefore commercial real estate will become superfluous!

Except 2020 vision might just be an optical illusion

Yes we managed working from home, but let’s not misinterpret managing when we had to during a lock down with what is best for us human beings, for our businesses, and for our communities.
And let’s not confuse our reluctance to go back with the difficulty we face when breaking any habit.

Sure, with the aid of technology we have learned how to work from home, and sure it has its benefits.

More of us than before the pandemic will balance working from home with working in an office. Why shouldn’t hard working people who commit their careers to the success of a business be able to lead their best lives? And if that means spending more time at home, great!

But almost certainly that best life will include time in the office.

And then I went into the office

After a long time away from the office I went in last Friday. It was great. Not because I worked more, though it was more efficient to have resources and people around me. And no, it wasn’t just because of the Gin and Tonic I enjoyed with my work colleagues. Though that was a highlight.

It was because we got to spend time together and I had forgotten how good that can be. It’s not just socially good. It’s good for the soul. And it’s good for the business. It’s good to talk. To look each other in the eye. To share stories. To teach. To learn. And to laugh. It’s how a business establishes and reinforces its values. It’s how knowledge is shared. It is powerful medicine for our well-being.

That kind of connection can only happen in an office. And it doesn’t have to take place over a G&T. It could be over a Negroni or even a juice or soda! But there’s more. Our office is our home. It’s a big part of the identity of a business. Branding is not just a logo and marketing material. It’s every representation of who we are. And a part of that is where and how we live as a business.

So what is the value of the office?

Now I know everyone has been questioning the value of an office.

Believe me, after making an enormous investment into relocating and fitting out a new office just 6 months before the pandemic, I have been asking that question more than most. But I don’t regret it for a minute.

Because in a year full of doubts, our office has reminded us, our staff and our clients of who we are and what we stand for. It’s not the whole picture but it’s a big part of it.

And finally, being back in the office has brought us back in touch with our work communities, the people we see in the lift each day, the cafes, restaurants and shops we visit during the working week, the real people for whom work and enterprise play such an important role in their capacity to live life. And don’t we all feel better to be part of an active dynamic supportive community than simply functioning in a ghost town.

So even though breaking this new habit has its challenges, and even though our working lives will look a little different, I have no doubt that offices are here to stay.