Why we’ll be going back to the office (once it’s safe to do so)

Long before COVID-19 forced us to work from home full time, I had written a post about the benefits of working in the office, such as creating a sense of community, supporting team members who might be struggling, learning from each other, and increasing collaboration across departments. The pandemic has shown that many jobs can be done remotely – some even better. In fact, several of the big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook announced that some of their workforce will be working remotely indefinitely. Not surprisingly, this idea keeps getting floated in our company. At this point, we are planning to return to the office when everybody has had a chance to get vaccinated and achieved the desired immunity level afterwards. We will start out with 2 days per week and ease back into a new routine. Here’s why.

Communication

While we’ve learned to use different communication channels, such as Zoom and Slack, in fairly effective ways and even developed a communication playbook, there’s a component to in person conversations that simply cannot be replicated. All too often, I see people multitask during virtual meetings, which doesn’t convey the level of respect for your team members that you would want, and it also doesn’t make for the most effective communication. In addition, in order to foster emotional intelligence, it is important to focus on and allow for non verbal communication. 

Empathy

There’s no question that working in isolation except for virtual meetings tends to make you more focused on yourself and less empathetic to others. As soon as some of us returned to the office (socially distant and mask-wearing, of course), you could feel that the human interactions and connections became enhanced and the tone more empathetic. 

Inspiration

Great work spawns more great work. Witnessing a Services developer implement a complex integration, a Product Engineer be laser focused on a new feature, or a Sales Rep consult a prospect makes everyone more aware of each team member’s contributions to the company, and, as a result, to each other’s lives. It makes you want to do your best work.  Listening to our Support team help our customers and each other is inspiring. I miss overhearing those conversations, not just because of the level of care that I believe is contagious, but also because it has resulted in new ideas for our products and services. 

Integration of new team members

If you’re fortunate enough to be hiring, you know that it can be challenging to onboard new team members remotely, especially when they’re new to the role. You have to ensure that you as the manager and the rest of your team are available for hands-on training and ad hoc questions, even when they’re “heads down”. If your company culture is as important to you as it is to us, you need to find ways to demonstrate how each one of you lives the values you subscribe to, which admittedly, is a bit easier in an office environment. 

Team over self

One of our values is that the team comes first. Literally “showing up” for your team members a couple of times a week can serve as a great reminder that personal preference or convenience, while important, sometimes needs to take a backseat to what’s best for the team as a whole. After all, some projects or initiatives may be achieved more effectively in person. 

In a company which is as customer-facing and customer-focused as we are, it’s not all about being heads down all the time. It’s also about fostering the best possible culture, collaboration, fun, and service. While it’s certainly not impossible to achieve all of this in a remote environment, being together in person does make those things easier. That’s why we decided on a hybrid set-up once it’s safe to return to the office. We will be more intentional about what we want out of a day in the office and also provide our team members plenty of opportunities to work from home. 

What about you? Does your company plan to work remotely indefinitely?

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