As featured on Forbes.
Most companies, as a result of the pandemic, have embraced the work-from-home model. Still, others have decided it’s best for everyone if they return to the physical workplace — a pre-pandemic scenario.
I look at it more as a reflection of how businesses will choose to be structured moving forward. There’s no right or wrong here. Decisions will depend on a number of factors like a particular product offering or how closely revenue targets depend on team unity. Even something as integral as company culture could have an impact. It really is up to the individual corporation to determine what model will work best.
For those who do opt to return to the physical workplace, though, I commend them. While it may be the proper path it may not be viewed that way by all the members of the team. But a good leader will consider the many advantages and benefits surrounding this model which are critically important to things like operations, productivity, and staff morale.
Team-Building And Productivity
I’m starting off with this one because it’s not just one of the most obvious benefits, it’s also one of the most essential ones. Building a strong, solid team doesn’t just happen — it takes planning, cultivation, and commitment. True team building requires an investment of both time and money.
When you have a good team in place, it shows — not just in your culture, but also through morale and productivity. Nothing builds a great team faster than providing opportunities for sharing, collaboration, and engagement.
Speaking of productivity, bringing your team back into the office should address one of the biggest drawbacks that have resulted from the pandemic: digital burnout. Being plugged in eight hours a day has taken a toll on mental health. Returning to a physical workplace would help mitigate this by setting criteria in place that would result in a more balanced workday.
We also shouldn’t overlook another benefit: onboarding. This is a prime opportunity for new hires to experience the company culture first-hand while getting a sense of the physical aspects of the workplace.
I’m not saying that a full remote-work model is a bad option, especially in light of the fact that many businesses are currently embracing different models. After all, in the world of tech, we all know the possibilities that exist in the digital space. But there are aspects of a physical workplace that just cannot be replicated or matched in a remote-work environment — aspects like a sense of belonging and team cohesion.
Performance, Promotion and Advancement
Remote employment can have some unforeseen downsides, with one of them being the inadvertent limitations on professional performance, promotion and advancement within the company.
When an employee is seen as being engaged and contributing at the office, their presence and their commitment are acknowledged. This also would naturally lead to opportunities that open up following in-person, in-depth performance reviews — both of which are difficult to implement when working remotely.
Having employees back in the office also creates an environment that offers 360-degree peer reviews. This provides a clearer and much more realistic picture of how individual teams are performing. It also lets us see how managers are faring while pinpointing — with a fair amount of accuracy — where attention might be needed with respect to training or improvement.
This brings up my next point: improved access to training. An efficiently run workplace — remote set up or not — often relies on technology to deliver training programs, from first-day meetings to onboarding to how-to webinars.
Full disclosure here: I’ll be the first to admit that I believe nothing comes close to beating hands-on training. Being able to participate as part of a team is so important to learn about best practices regarding the adoption of a company’s culture. Best of all, there are no delays or other obstacles to navigate — like availability or access — since everything happens collectively in real-time.
Just how keen am I on in-house training? Let me put it this way: My daughter recently started a new job. She’s been in training classes and gone on field rides with team members. In a remote work setting, I know that these activities simply would not happen and a great opportunity to accelerate the learning curve would have been lost.
Community And Purpose
When people gather in the workplace, there’s more to be considered than the strictly social atmosphere that results. More importantly, there is a sense of belonging to something bigger and better — a sense of community that’s being built then nurtured.
There is also a shared purpose across all levels of the organization. This acts as both catalysts and as reinforcement. We all know how critical this can be to contributing to overall employee health and well-being. It’s a major motivator when it comes to morale and productivity.
If you’ve been considering a full return to the physical workplace, I say go for it. Be prepared to handle initial objections or concerns, but I firmly believe those can be headed off early with a few, well-thought-out rationales. In the end, it’s about what kind of working environment you feel is best for your team and your company. There are many benefits to returning to a physical office and you might be surprised by how enthusiastically it’s embraced by your employees — many of whom have been longing for in-person contact, collaboration, and culture building.