There’s another, less measurable benefit of working in an office: serendipity. Zoom, Teams, Slack, and so on all have their place. But there’s something to be said for the nuances of an in-person conversation that can’t be fully captured remotely, no matter how effective the tool. And then there are the spontaneous, informal types of conversations that just happen when you’re in a physical milieu with other people — the knock on someone’s door to bat around an idea, the side meeting, the drinks after work. All that.
It’s sort of like the difference between online shopping and bricks-and-mortar. Buying something from Amazon or some other online retailer is a largely transactional experience. Usually you’ve done the research and pretty much know what you want. Whereas with physical stores, there can be a browsing/serendipitous/pleasurable aspect.
I linked to his piece yesterday, but Jerry Seinfeld touched on this as well when he wrote passionately about New York City coming back from this whole mess. The energy just isn’t there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love many aspects of working from home. I love being able to go from exclaiming, “I need to get to that 8AM meeting!” from my bed to being in that meeting in 30 seconds. I love being able to close Slack and have no way for coworkers to talk to me for a little bit if I need to put my head down on something. I love being able to make my own lunch and be a little more loose with my schedule.
But there are downsides as well.
I don’t like that as time has gone on I’ve developed a weekly schedule with an ungodly amount of meetings.
I hate that my time is all meetings, but those are also the only times we work “together” anymore.
I don’t like that I feel more disconnected from my team because we’re simply not sharing the same physical space.
I don’t like that all of my presentations happen over Google Meet and not in person where I can get feedback from people in the room (you don’t get as much over a video call).
I don’t like that the days blend together more since my surroundings are the same everyday.
Heck, I don’t like that I no longer have a good reason to get dressed up a little nicer than usual for special days.
There’s much more to love and hate about working from home, but my point is that there are definite trade offs for me. Your trade offs might be different from mine, too. If you have kids, then the equation might change dramatically!
I guess what I’m saying is that this year has given a ton of people and companies the chance to see how remote work work for them, and while it’s inevitably going to lead to more people working from home, more companies going full remote, and more companies being more lenient about letting their employees have a more hybrid schedule, I think a lot of us are going to go back to the office next year and we’re going to be pretty happy about it.
Anecdotally, my company had the unfortunate timing of buying a whole new office space that we were supposed to move into in May 2020. Needless to say, we didn’t move then, but I got the chance to go into the new office for an hour this week and I really liked being back in an office setting for a little bit.