Is the Bloom Falling Off the Work from Home Flower?

I have been involved in several discussions both internally and externally about bringing people back to the office.  Our essential employees in manufacturing and shipping have been working the entire time.  It is estimated that 37% of jobs can be done from home.  (https://bfi.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/BFI_White-Paper_Dingel_Neiman_3.2020.pdf) That means 63% cannot.  My personal belief is society, let alone a company, cannot function if we have a dramatic bifurcation in how people work.  (I do recognize there are advantages to having people work from home and as a company, we have done this since I bought the business.  But that’s topic for another day.)

Anecdotally, here are summaries of a few conversations I have had over the last few weeks.

  1. A good friend is a partner at a major law firm.  He loves working from home.  He is concerned about the development of the younger staff.  “How do they bounce ideas off of someone else?” was his question.
  2. My sister works at a major bank.  She is tired of being at home and wants to get back in the office at least a few days a week.  Her team is struggling to meet productivity levels it had in the office.
  3. A long-time service provider just got promoted.  She told our HR team she is “sick of looking at people on screens.”  Taking on a new role without being around your boss or your team is challenging. 

Humans are social creatures.  Work is more than work. It is a social network.  It is a social outlet.  It is connection to something bigger than you are.  While some occupations and individuals can thrive working from home, I believe the vast majority of people (and companies) do better in a collaborative environment.  The lockdowns forced us to use tools (Zoom, Teams, Slack, etc.) that help collaboration.  But in person collaboration still wins.  We might not go back to 5 days in the office, but we won’t stay at zero either. 

Comments are closed.