When No-One Really Wants to Return to The Office

HSM Advisory founder Lynda Gratton was recently featured in a TIME Magazine article about the difficulties leaders are facing as they navigate the return to work. The transition from fully remote working to hybrid hasn’t been easy, and organisations are facing significant challenges navigating them.

The main issue, after two years working from home, is that the purpose of offices has become unclear. Employees who have discovered they can work productively from home and so aren’t keen to return to the office every day – and continued remote working has become a key retention factor for some. Employees hired during the pandemic may not have any expectation of regularly working from an office. And employees who have started returning to the office are increasingly wondering what the point is – when they spend all day logging onto Teams calls with remote colleagues. It’s time to redefine what the office is for – and quickly.

Lynda’s take on resolving these problems is that companies need to understand the different types of work employees are doing, identify which tasks are best done in the office, and create spaces that support these activities. Common categories might include focused work, coordination work, and cooperative work – and while the first two can be done remotely, the third category is best done in the office where people can interact face to face. Allowing people to do focused work and coordination work remotely and encouraging them to do cooperative work in the office could ensure everyone has the best of both worlds. Of course, if the office is for cooperation, that affects the nature of office space: the traditional rows of desks may have to make way for collaboration spaces.

Even if spaces are made more appealing, remote working has become so much a part of people’s working lives, that many will be reluctant to see it taken away – and may expect to be compensated if their employer insists on doing so. This makes it even more important for organisations to assess whether work really needs to be done in the office. Decision makers need to understand: is the work people do in the office worth paying more for?

The most important factor when approaching all of this, is a willingness to experiment. There is no one size fits all approach – although Lynda suggests that a mixed-mode approach is likely to work in most cases. Organisations must give themselves room to design, fail, and redesign to find what works.

Want to explore what Lynda and other experts have to say about the return to office in more detail? Read the full TIME Article here. 

Find out more about how we can support you to build a productivity led approach to hybrid working here.