There is a hot debate raging in our business ethos. As the pandemic seemingly winds down (fingers crossed), many companies are flirting with the idea of returning to the office. This has proven controversial, and companies are tackling this in a variety of ways. The “work from home” camp fires off a proverbial volley of “employees are more productive when working remotely.” “In office” proponents swing back with “meeting in an office helps form a cohesive company culture.” By the end of the battle, everyone is bruised and equally dissatisfied.
It seems that the return to the office isn’t going to be a collective act, and the decision to return, not to return, or to go hybrid rests firmly in the hands of individual companies—as it should. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this debate. Each company will have to approach this decision with tact and self-awareness. So with that, there are stupid ways of making this decision and non-stupid ways of making this decision. Let’s not be stupid.
How to Not Be Stupid
When deciding whether to go remote, return to the office, or go hybrid, we have to do some reflection. It is important to ask ourselves questions like Is my motivation for making this decision fear-oriented? and Is this a decision that can be executed efficiently? For example, if you believe your company should return to the office so employees can be more easily monitored, you might be off base. That is a decision made out of fear, not trust. It doesn’t propel or push your team forward. It is control-oriented, not benefit-oriented. When making this decision, we have to avoid making decisions out of fear.
Another example! Let’s say your team wants to take a page out of Google’s book and go hybrid. While flexibility is necessary, the return to the office must be thought through and organized. If half the team is in the office and half is working from home, the result is no different from having been remote the whole time: zoom conference calls. To build a cohesive company culture, communication and coordination are MUSTS, especially in a hybrid work environment. Flexibility and coordination must be balanced.
It is also important to take stock of your company and the type of work your team does on a daily basis. Work involving teams/group activities might benefit more from working in the office together than teams predominantly focused on individual work. You don’t have to instate a companywide mandate either. Depending on your circumstance, it might be wise to have marketing come into the office but let your accounting folks rough it from home. That said, reasoning has to be clear, and communication/flexibility between your management and your employees is necessary, lest feelings of inequity creep in.
What to Do Now That You Aren’t Stupid
Commit. Whatever you decide to do, it must be done decisively. These next moments as we emerge from the pandemic define the future of company cultures, workflows, and structures. This is not the time to pull a Hamlet; action, not rumination, is necessary. Move forward thoughtfully, bravely, and without fear. Know yourself, your company, and the needs of your team.
For the first time, companies are breaking the mold. As I said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. Seize that opportunity to build something uniquely tailored to your team. The chance is one in a century. Look forward with trust and opportunity. Step thoughtfully, laying the groundwork for something productive and exciting.
Brad Federman is the CEO of PerformancePoint, LLC.