Let’s face it, the return to “business as usual” from pandemic life has taken a lot longer than most of us expected. What started as a an abrupt but expected-to-be-short-lived few months of remote work for most office workers turned into a year and a half of ping-ponging office work policies. While the workforce may be split as to whether they wish to remain remote, I’m of the opinion in-person work is more important than ever. I recently had a team together for the first time and they were thrilled to spend time working in person.
What to consider when implementing hybrid work
What exactly workplaces of the future will look like going forward is where the debate starts. I know big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook have announced various forms of permanent hybrid or full-time remote arrangements, but those giants hardly represent the average American business. They also don’t seem committed to it based on Google’s recent purchase of a $2.1 billion building in NYC and both Facebook and Amazon consuming office space at a record pace.
The best performing companies will adopt a hybrid environment that provides time for collaboration along with remote work where people find themselves to be incredibly efficient. In fact, I recently read this article from The Wall Street Journal that outlined what some companies with hybrid workforces are doing to ensure equitable opportunities for remote and in-office workers. For some, it means their reliance on technology like video conferencing isn’t going anywhere.
Considering the added complexity of hybrid workplaces, how will companies decide what’s right for them? To me, it is about balance and ensuring your workforce is effectively moving your business forward. I also believe the personal connections built in the workplace cannot be achieved without physically being together with a certain level of regularity.
While technology has been an amazing enabler for keeping much of the worldwide workforce humming amidst the turmoil of the pandemic--our customers tell us all the time how happy they are about their move to cloud-based solutions--it just can’t replace the camaraderie that happens when people ideate together. Relationships built through in-person office interactions are invaluable. And these relationships aren’t necessarily built by attending meetings in-person versus through Zoom, they are built through casual conversations in the breakroom and impromptu collaborations. I personally missed being in the office and am excited to pass people in the hallway again and say hello.
Pros of in-person work
You know who else is chomping at the bit to get back together? Sales. I hear it all the time from our salespeople at TCP Software. “Sure, I can still do a demo or explain the benefits of our software via a video call, but it’s just not the same as the energy when we are together in one place,” says Enterprise Account Executive Mike Bowman. “When I meet with prospective customers in person, I can read the room. I can see if one person is nodding excitedly or if someone is sitting there with their arms crossed. Body language just doesn’t come through as well on video calls and it helps me properly address their concerns.” Our sales pros have learned how to sell without traveling, but they are ready to hit the road and sell the way they used to: at in-person events and on-site doing demos and consultations.
A hybrid working arrangement will likely become more common as we desperately seek to find a way out of this pandemic. Many workers say remote work has given them a greater work-life balance, and for some roles, a remote arrangement works just fine. In fact, many of our employees work remotely all the time. But in my view, remote workers miss out on little things that can have a compounding effect. Workplace relationships just aren’t the same, especially if the rest of the team is in an office together. One of TCP’s remote workers, Lindsay Rose, told me this, “I’ve noticed that since I began working remotely, I don’t dread the Monday morning back-to-work commute like I used to when I worked in an office. But being remote comes with a tradeoff, I just don’t know as many coworkers outside my immediate team, and I know that would be different if I saw them in the office on a regular basis.”
In reality, I expect the workplace of the near future to be 60-80% in-office versus remote. Being open to having remote workers allows your organization to attract talent that might not otherwise be interested, and technology makes interacting and collaborating easier than it once did. But nothing can replace a face-to-face meeting, the energy of a group of people brainstorming or even the simple connection of a proverbial water cooler chat. I’d caution well-intentioned companies from announcing sweeping remote work policies without fully examining all the pros and cons. They could wind up in a working arrangement that loses true connection and hurts them in the long-term.