The much-hyped “Return to Office” movement is, in fact, a misstep. A huge one.
A recent EY-Parthenon study, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, confirms a disturbing trend: in back-the-office-companies, productivity has been on the downturn for five straight quarters. Yet, our boardrooms continue to insist on the need for physical office presence. The newest State of Work 2023 Numbers from Slack confirm: Two-thirds of business leaders say they have immense pressure to get their teams to more productivity. A little contradictory, don’t you think?
It’s time to burst a popular bubble: offices are not magical productivity factories. The idea of “insert employee, extract productivity” is simply a myth that has pervaded our corporate mindset for too long. The truth is, while offices are hotspots for collaboration, mentoring, and training, they could be a black hole for focused, productive work.
Consider this: a recent study found that software engineers in separate buildings produced more programs than those in close proximity. Mentorship suffered, but productivity thrived, leading us to question the efficacy of forced office presence. It’s no surprise that the EY-Parthenon study links forced office returns with falling productivity. So, why are we trying to fit a square peg into a round hole?
The need of the hour? A hybrid model with a remote-first mindset. Offices should be leveraged for what they excel at — networking, collaboration, and mentorship. Meanwhile, the heavy lifting of productivity could be done in the remote space, free from the constant interruptions that plague office life.
But the cost of mandatory office work doesn’t stop at lost productivity. Employee engagement also takes a beating. Gallup’s research reveals that employees forced to work in the office, despite being able to work remotely, feel less autonomous and engaged. This lack of engagement adds to global productivity losses, estimated to be a staggering $7.8 trillion last year!
Clearly, it’s time we re-examined our biases and unlearned some of our outdated beliefs. Cognitive biases like status quo bias and functional fixedness often steer us wrong, making us resist change and cling to the familiar. We need to step out of our comfort zones and explore the possibilities that flexible work offers. The future of work is here, and it is flexible.
It’s time we navigated away from the sinking ship of compulsory office work. The office isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution — it’s one piece of a dynamic, flexible work puzzle. We need to embrace the flexible work revolution, strike a balance between remote and in-office work, and turbocharge our productivity.
Let’s stop bashing our heads against the brick wall expecting a different outcome. Let’s open our minds to the possibility of hybrid work and create an environment where productivity thrives.
Are you ready to end the back-to-the-office craziness once and for all?
I welcome your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Let’s engage and discuss how we can all navigate this new era of work together.