WSJ: Surprising Hope and Joy Reported When Returning to the Office Some Days

The week started with an encouraging story by the Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Feintzeig about the Surprise Joys of Being Back in the Office. We’ve found most (but not all) workers have wanted to return to the office to spend some of their time onsite with colleagues. But as Rachel’s story points out, “Our offices have changed, and so have we.”

This isn’t about going back to the good old days before February 2020; it’s about creating a new, better way to work going forward. Intentionally determining what’s the best mix of onsite and remote work as part of the broader flexible way we will work, next.

When thinking about returning to the office and onsite work, I told Rachel, “I just think there has to be a, ‘Why am I here?’ When teams have a reason to show up at the office—in-person meetings take less time, co-workers finally get to know new staff—they enjoy it.”

The reason for showing up stems from answering what do we need to do and how, when, and where do we do it best. The WHAT drives the process, the strategy, and the guardrails (schedules, locations, technology, etc.)

The WSJ article notes that we surveyed about 600 employees and 600 managers earlier this year as we prepared them to navigate the transition to some level of onsite work. When both groups were asked how they felt about the shift, the most popular response was “hopeful.”

As I told Rachel, “They’re ready to try.”  We’re at a pivotal moment.

Bloomberg reported last week, “Return-to-Office Plans Unravel as Workers Rebel in a Tight Job Market, even the most inflexible bosses are softening their return-to-office expectations.” No surprise there.

They’re learning you can’t simply add more remote work around the edges of a pre-pandemic work model, which no longer exists. But to start reimagining work, you first must agree it needs to be restructured. Too many leaders have not reached that point which is why their organizations are struggling.

One trick we’ve seen work wonders is to use the terms “Remote Work” or “Working Remotely” rather than “Work from Home”. It makes a difference. Even after two years, the WFH concept is tough for some leaders to embrace as it continues to conjure up images of employees not working no matter how much the productivity data shows otherwise.

When you shift the focus to remote work, you broaden the “where” to include multiple locations whether it’s at a client site, a co-working site, or in a hotel room.

In fact, before the pandemic, our national research found that one-third of the workforce was already getting most of their work done at a location not on their employer’s worksite, or “remotely.” Remote work is not new. It was happening before. It’s still happening, and it’s just one of the ways we can successfully work going forward when it’s operationalized with intention and purpose.