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For the sake of the next generation, let’s get back to the office 

For the sake of the next generation, let’s get back to the office 

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There’s a lot to be learned from working in the office, says Quentin Bosman, a Customer Success Lead for workplace platform, Envoy. Some companies have told employers to return to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have opted for a hybrid working arrangement and of course, there are those who work purely from home. Bosman shares what he’s learned about hybrid work since relocating from the US. 

As a recent transplant from San Francisco, I’ve heard every argument in the debate over whether to return to the office. Those against working from home argue that the home is a distraction and leads to less productivity. Those against working from the office argue that the workplace is a distraction and leads to less productivity.

What may be true for some, isn’t necessarily true for most. You can be productive from home or the office. It’s about training yourself to work in a certain environment. That said, there is inherent value in the physical workplace. And for new graduates who’ve never set foot in an office, a big part of the work experience is missing. There is something about in-person interactions that you can’t replicate over Zoom.

I’m a millennial in a new country, working for the same company, and in a new phase of the pandemic. The on-going WFH debate with its extremes (fully remote or fully in-office) has made me rethink the challenges and benefits of finding a middle ground and splitting my work time between home and the office. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

We crave connections IRL

I commute to the office three days a week. Collaborating, sharing and problem solving in-person after almost two years of working from home has been a relief. And it’s not just me.

People want to connect with their co-workers face to face and collaborate in-person. If given the choice, 43% of UK workers ages 18 to 24 would choose to be in the office three to four days a week. Thirty-seven percent said unplanned run-ins at work and actual face time with colleagues is what makes them excited about going into the office while 35% just want to get out of the house! I get it.

One thing I love about London work life is how often teams meet and socialise after hours. Recently, our team planned a day of training and fun. Much of our London team is new to the company, so it was a great opportunity to provide some on-site coaching. We, of course, capped the day off with a fancy dinner and bonding time playing cricket. Being together helps us build stronger relationships and a sense of belonging at work. I don’t want to sit at a desk the entire day, but I do want to be there to connect with folks, brainstorm on a white board and move key projects forward. And maybe gather a few folks together to have coffee or drink after work.

We need to be intentional when planning workdays

Before COVID, if I was working on a cross-functional project, I knew at some point I would run into the person I needed to pair with. I likely knew exactly where they sat within the office and what time they typically arrived. In a 100% remote environment, that type of spontaneous interaction isn’t possible.

One of the great benefits of hybrid work is being able to see your colleagues in person again. But that only works if you can co-ordinate hybrid schedules. No one wants to commute all the way to the office to discover that the co-workers you needed to see are at home. These days, you need to know who will be in the office and when.

Encouraging team days or in-person working sessions has added a layer of purpose to our time in the office. I know why I’m coming in on a specific day and how I should prepare because I know who will be there with me. This means that I can spend my work from home days on more heads-down, strategic work. This type of intention leads to incredible productivity.

Shadowing is best done in-office

We learn best by observing others – and shadowing those that are the best at what they do. That’s why opportunities to learn on the job are essential when we talk about shepherding and inspiring the next generation of workers. And if we’re honest, this is best done in-person.

I’m also a believer in mentorship, having been mentored myself. It helps us make connections and gives us the opportunity to have deeper conversations about what we’d like to do.

And as much as we don’t like to admit, when you’re present in the office, you’re likely to have more facetime with leaders and thus, greater influence. Being on-site helps develop leaders at every level.

We all need to be in the office part-time – especially those just starting careers

I remember my first job and the excitement of being a part of the real world. Working in an office and making friends. But for many, COVID disrupted this rite of passage. Interns and new hires out of university are showing up to mostly empty offices where even their bosses are no-shows.

Those early in their careers will learn faster and develop stronger connections if they’re a part of a vibrant, in-person workplace. A place where they can build networks, develop their skills and progress professionally. Being in the office is also the best way to discover what you like or dislike about your job or what you might want to do in the future.

Our past experiences in the office have made us into the professionals we are today. And those of us already established in our careers may take those formative years for granted. That’s why we should commit to returning to the office at least part-time – if not for ourselves – than for our team. Younger workers need advocates and mentors, and they need to see others in the workplace, working. They deserve better than sitting on video calls and sending IMs and emails all day.

We need to get back into the habit of working from the office. We’re out of practice, and like anything new, the transition is initially difficult. But I’ve rediscovered the many upsides of being present in the workplace. And I know younger co-workers, if given the chance, will discover them too.

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