I’ve still got my pyjamas on as I’m writing this, and it’s 12:30pm. The dream has come true, we can now work from home and I don’t have to put on pants all day. Finally, no more commuting times and bringing those old meals from last night’s dinner in tupperware to the office. I’m getting plenty of work done, and still managing to fit in 2 hours of solid game time on Xbox live every day.
But I’m starting to get unnerved by the lack of stimulation. Everyday melts into the same and it feels like I’ve been doing the same thing for months. I go for walks to interact with other humans but it’s not the same, it’s hard to have a deep conversation whilst social distancing. Cabin fever is setting in.
Throughout this virus, people around the globe have declared we’re moving into a new world. A world where we’re no longer going to need to work in an office. The WFH camp are ecstatic, the trend has been accelerated. But I call Bullshit. Offices aren’t going anywhere and nor should they.
WFH evangelists often cite studies that show how much more effective we are when working from home. A 2014 Stanford study, examined China’s largest travel agency as they transitioned some of their workers to working from home over 2 years, and found they were, on average, 13% more productive than if they had worked in the office.
However, this doesn’t take into account that research has also shown we are more creative and innovative when we are physically in the same room as other people. We tend to solve problems more quickly when we are working in the same room as other people and our lunch breaks with other colleagues can be a boost for creativity.
Let’s not beat around the bush, working in isolation can be lonely. Co-working spaces have been hugely successful in recent times, often playing into this narrative. They allow companies to offer employees flexible working arrangements with like-minded co-workers, whilst keeping workplace culture at a maximum by offering things like free kombucha on tap.
Pyjamas and Xbox may appeal to us now, but the time will come for everyone to put their big boy pants back on and get back into the office.
Sure, offices have their downsides. Travel, inflexibility and the curse of open plan offices all feed in to the anger we feel towards our offices. But these are easily solved using a little bit of creativity and ingenuity. For instance, a workplace with an open plan office can consider adding mobile phone booths, to bring back areas of peace and quiet that replicate some of the productive times our home office can give us.
I’ll leave you with this thought. Many of the world’s economies have been decimated by the virus, and one thing we can all agree on is that to get ourselves out of this economic mess we’re going to need to innovate – not by simply buying back shares using any spare cash to pump up stock prices. We need to spark deep employee interaction, the kind you can only get when working in an office that fosters a team environment. Pyjamas and Xbox may appeal to us now, but the time will come for everyone to put their big boy pants back on and get back into the office. Let’s just hope employers take heed some of the lessons of this time and attempt to replicate the positive elements of working from home.