Long before the pandemic hit, the debate of the merits of working remotely versus being in the office was an ongoing saga in our company. Me being from the millennial generation, and my business partner and father being of the boomer generation, we found it difficult to see eye to eye. In many ways, our experiences are so different from each other. I grew up with the computer. As a preteen and teenager, a large portion of my interactions with my friends was online. Compared to those of the boomer generation,
who were adults when interacting on the computer with others became a regular occurrence.
As an IT organization, we had the capabilities of working remotely far before most small businesses of our size. At the same time, being in the service industry, many of the roles in our company cannot be performed remotely. This resulted in many (sometimes heated) discussions on the merits of leading a team remotely and what the “right” balance looked like. I was open to more extended periods of working remotely while my father felt the need to be present in the office every day.
What emerged from our constant back and forth over the years was what we call “Office Day.” Once a month, our entire team would be present in the office at the same time. We would have smaller team meetings throughout the day, and we all enjoyed breakfast and lunch together, which the company provided to the team. I would work remotely three weeks out of the month and be in the office for the entire week that coincided with Office Day. We seemed to have reached that “right” balance for about
a year, and then COVID-19 entered the scene.
What I have learned from being forced into a longer stretch than normal of remote work and being robbed of our “Office Days” was just how important they are. While a lot can be accomplished remotely, there is an intangible energy created from being together in person. This energy is vital for team cohesion and happiness. Not only that, but not everyone is “made” for remote work.
Some find coming to the office every day energizing, not draining. Every person has a different ideal mix of working in the office or working remotely, depending on their lifestyle, personality, and gifts. And I believe that the more diverse a group of people, the better the ideas are that emerge from their collaboration.
What I see coming out of all of this for the future is flexible work environments becoming the norm. Depending on how often an employee frequents the office will dictate their setup, those working a certain number of days in the office will have dedicated desks, and others will book shared workspaces. Perhaps more companies will enter into partnerships to share office real estate (given the number of team members that work remotely) and the office will turn into mostly a collaboration space. As we expand upon our technology offerings, we are holding this idea in mind. I see the transformation of how we work as a society coming and am looking forward to it— and I believe we will all be better off.