THE OFFICE is not Dead yet

By Eric Mosley

Lately, we’ve seen lots of obituaries for the office. The pandemic caused a massive shift to work from home (WFH) among knowledge and service workers. Teams are using communication apps such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams to stay productive. Even though employees are working longer hours, people like having more control over their work schedules. They benefit from less commuting, even as the boundaries are blurring between work and home.

Reports of the office’s demise are premature for several reasons, but they all reflect the critical human need for connection. Earlier this year, a large number of Silicon Valley executives made very public statements indicating their changed minds on the need for an in-person workplace:

“We’re working so well from home that we might never go back to the office.”

Didn’t they realise that the reason they could transition to 100% virtual teams overnight was that they had spent years building a shared experience among employees? It was the power of proximity that enabled employees to make the switch.

Those companies had invested in their cultures, which carried them through.

After almost a year of remote working, we’re seeing a slow decay of connection. According to Gallup, remote employees are 7% less likely to see their connection to the mission of a company. Staring at a laptop screen with six other faces is inherently transactional, less spontaneous and less human than working in an actual room with actual people.

In response, leaders are stepping up their efforts to celebrate humanity at work, casting a spotlight on moments when employees go beyond their job descriptions to help customers, improve products or share new ideas. They are reminding employees that we’re in a stressful time and it’s okay to take care of themselves and each other. They are using all-hands virtual meetings and recognition platforms to share some of their own vulnerability and gratitude for the sacrifices and resilience of employees.

At Fast Company (SA), we’ve noted that workers around the world have missed the direct communication and collaboration that comes with being in a shared space.

We’ve also noticed that coworking spaces have adapted their safety precautions to ensure they are doing everything possible to be a safe environment during the pandemic. They are also looking to be flexible and tailor their offerings to support a broad range of customers, including larger companies that may be looking to down-scale their office. One of those co-working spaces is WeWork, the leading global flexible space provider. It became our preferred space to meet with Telkom CEO of Consumer Business, Lunga Siyo.

This is part of the Future of Work series in collaboration with leading businesses.

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