There has been a mistaken belief for generations that work is a location. This errant view has been nurtured by corporations for decades and it required a global pandemic to expose this flawed perspective.
After almost 2 years where much of the global workforce has been performing their jobs remotely, and have proven work that is not service-driven, does not require colocation. Work is and always has been an activity.
Most professional employees in every business vertical have increased productivity and engagement through this new freedom of working remotely delivering value back to their employers at almost every metric.
Now that the pandemic is seeming to recede the corporations are now wanting to go back to the old way of work (the location). However, the great majority of employees do not wish to look backwards as they move ahead in their careers and are making their voices heard.
Despite the benefits delivered over the past 2 years there is a significant cadre of C-Suite types and senior leadership who keep pushing “back to office” as a means to get back to the old way of normal and forcing their employees back to work (the location). Not realizing, and more importantly not capitalizing on the productivity gains virtually every company has received through work from home, they are exposing their own vanity and nothing more.
I have heard the excuses that leaders are promoting to justify this pull backwards, like we: are an office culture, miss meeting in person, need to provide mentoring opportunities, or the most vain excuse — need to be seen by the C-Suite occupants in order to get ahead in our company, et. al.
Honestly, each and every one of the reasons I have heard have nothing to do with business effectiveness, velocity to market, quality delivery, or profits and productivity but rather with this antiquated notion that the boss wants to see their workers work. People have been hired, onboarded, promoted, and every other chapter of career progression remotely throughout this pandemic which negates the significance of that point of view.
More than likely, they want to return to the old way of doing business because that makes them feel comfortable and in control. Honestly, after the past 2 years, I can sympathize with wanting to be in control. However, this perspective offers the mistaken belief that colocation will allow more direct control over their workforce to justify their roles and budgets.
Executives talk about how they can’t wait to work together when they get back to the office while some of these same executives have spent the pandemic cocooned in their homes never reaching out to their teams beyond their executive assistants or direct reports to engage and benefit from that shared work (the activity).
For every article on LinkedIn, or elsewhere, that I see about everyonewanting to return to offices, I ask my peer groups and not a single one wants to go back to the old normal. When I prod a little more I see most of those articles are highlighting the executives’ points of view which are not aligned with their workers wishes at all.
As a leader of people, I miss the opportunity to share in person but am buoyed by the strength of our relationships we have built over the years — in office and through the pandemic. I am proud of the great strides my team has made in collaboration and craft while continuing to deliver value back to the business while enjoying the benefits of working remotely.
I look forward to joining them in celebrations, which we have been able to do more as the dangers of Covid continue to be mitigated, but that does not drive my desire to force them to work in a colocated environment to satisfy my needs. As a leader I am in service to my team and enabling their success in their careers and our united business goals.
What I have learned is that the changes across our society have created a sense of uncertainty and urgency among most of us. These changes are real and tangible and present an additional level of anxiety and stress that we have never seen in our lifetime on top of the responsibilities of their corporate roles.
The ability for many employees to work remotely has given a portion of control back the individual when a lot of the world seemed to be spiraling. The productivity gains from working from home are significant as well while engagement by teams has been increased for most companies.
As the world continues to gain better control over the pandemic, there is the desire to return to normal. However, normal did not work for everyone. Normal was not un-biased. Normal was not truly normal. To turn back the clock on employees to force a return to a system that was not entirely equitable for all negates the great strides made by so many during the pandemic.
It is tone-deaf from a corporate standpoint to not want to enable those who have worked so diligently and dedicated to their roles the affordance to continue to work in a model that is best for them.
Working from home, or working remotely, is not a reward but a necessary modernization of the compact between companies and their employees that has taken far too long to be realized. It is treating your employees as professionals and respecting their needs as they perform their work (the activity) for the company.
Ignore the evolution of work (the activity) at your company’s peril because the marketplace is greatly favoring employees today and companies are scrambling to hire good people who have grown accustomed to working in a manner that best suits them.
It is the future of work.
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