Are We Ever Going Back to the Office?

The pandemic forced companies across the country to switch to fully remote work overnight. While teleworking has allowed many to cut back on commute time and connect with their families, it undoubtedly has its tradeoffs. Opinions on remote work vary depending on who you ask — some enjoyed the change, some didn’t. Will people ever go back to the office?

It may seem as if the coronavirus pandemic means the end of the office, but this may not be the case. Offices are expected to remain essential, as they provide unique benefits, namely culture and collaboration, that are difficult to achieve at home. A physical space that brings people together helps to boost both performance and creativity while also showcasing a company’s culture. Tech giants are not the only ones who use their office space as a way to attract and retain top talent. Furthermore, technology struggles to replicate face-to-face interactions, such as mentoring and managing.

The Future of Work

Working from home has clear benefits; it provides employees with more flexible hours and removes the dreaded commute. For many, however, homes are suboptimal office spaces, full of distractions and lacking privacy. It remains unclear to what degree COVID-19 will impact the workplace for the long-term, but one thing is clear: work will never look the same. What have leaders learned from this large-scale remote work experiment?

  1. Shifting Mindset: Businesses initially transitioned to remote because they had no choice. Business leaders who had doubts about remote work before might have had a change of heart after experiencing the benefits firsthand. Likewise, leaders under pressure are learning to be flexible and pivot quickly when things don’t work out.
  2. New Attitude Towards Funding: Funding that might have once seemed extravagant prior to the pandemic, particularly on technology, now are necessary business investments. The pandemic has reminded companies that they need to be flexible, nimble-witted, and open to change.
  3. Location Flexibility: The lack of commuting is one of the most popular benefits of remote work. As a result, offices may reconsider locations — relocating from a hyperconnected city to a more livable suburb. For the companies that are able to work and communicate effectively remotely, it has removed the geography barrier on talent. With remote work, companies are able to hire top talent from around the globe, not a specific metropolitan area.

While COVID-19 has prompted many to rethink how they work, remote work comes with its inevitable challenges. We have seen that not everyone can work from home. There is inconclusive evidence on the difference in productivity at the office versus at home, and both positions are equally valid. Ultimately the future of companies depends on its leader’s own experience with and their opinion on remote work.