It’s time to return to the office. Are you ready? The commute, rarely pleasant in the first place, will be arduous. The experience of entering the building that you’ve worked in for years will be unfamiliar: equal parts clinical and penitential. The wait for the elevator will be long. Once in, elbows will be choosing your destination. You will be alighting on the 7th floor! The coffee will be even worse than you remember, and you will be discouraged from leaving the building for a better brew. A labyrinth of arrows on the office floor will dictate your movements. Chance encounters will need to be pre-booked and appropriately spaced. So, are you sure that you are ready to return to the office?
Of course, I embellish to make a point. But suffice to say, La Rentrée is going to be a decidedly curious affair. Yet we want it, in fact, many are clamouring to get back. Return to office surveys from commercial property agencies, leading architecture practices, major consultancies and the like are all evincing similar trends. Whilst WFH has functioned surprisingly well for many firms, it has its limitations, which are now becoming apparent. Junior members of staff crave social interaction with peers and a chance to shine in front of leadership. Senior members may have become quite comfortable with remote working, but they are struggling to recreate serendipitous information exchange.
This of course makes sense, physical premises are required to build corporate culture, champion team spirit and to provide a focal point for collaboration. The office is more than just physical space, but rather a platform for professional, business and personal development. Its confines are where a company can convey its mission and the value it places on collaboration and connection. It’s where we create and innovate. It’s where companies foster a competitive edge in engaging and attracting talent. Hopefully the office is a safe space, and one providing a critical sense of common ground.
Being together in the office feeds a need for togetherness, whether we’re working side-by-side brainstorming a new idea on a flipchart, tackling a thorny problem at a colleague’s desk or acknowledging a friendly face across the cafeteria. There is power in the shared experience of rolling up sleeves—literally—and working on a shared objective. Being together virtually just doesn’t have the same magic.
After the profound experience that we have collectively endured, togetherness is what so many are yearning for. We want to return to the office, and we aspire to return to a better workplace than the one we left.