The Hesitancy To Return To The Office

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There is hesitancy to…

  • Head back to the office full time.
  • Attend corporate events and conferences.
  • Hold large team gatherings.
  • Travel for business.

There is NO hesitancy to…

  • Pack cafes during the work week.
  • Pack restaurants during the work week.
  • Attend sold-out concerts, sporting events and more.
  • Travel for leisure.
  • Sit in traffic on the highways and in the downtown core.

Imagine if…

Teachers, nurses, doctors, specialists, store owners, and more said, “the pandemic has changed us… we will only come back to in-person work two/three days a week… the rest will have to be virtual.”
I’ve been on the road and traveling for the past few months. This has been the sentiment expressed to me by a myriad of professionals from event organizers and Chief Marketing Officers to heads of large venture capital firms and leaders within some of the most exciting brands in the world today.

I’ve also seen this behavior first-hand.

One c-suite executive with more than 100,000 employees in their organization said that the company is demanding that employees come to the office three days a week.
Two of the days are mandatory (Monday and Thursday) and the third day is at the discretion of the employee.

How is that working out?

Scheduling meetings internally has become a nightmare.
Scheduling meetings with clients and partners are even a greater nightmare.
Actually getting work done on Monday and Thursday is impossible.
Monday and Thursday are stacked with meetings with no time to think and actually get the work done.
Plus, because the team members only see one another twice a week in person, socializing and “coffee breaks” seem to be where most of the energy and “culture” is happening on those two days (in between the meetings). Because of this, deadlines and timelines are being shifted to make space for more time to “get the work done.” 

The worst part (according to this executive)?

Without any surveillance software, but by simply looking at the overall network traffic (emails, virtual meetings, accessing of corporate documents, etc…), the company is estimating that on Fridays the digital traffic is running at less than 10% of the usual traffic.
They are translating this as: Everyone is taking a long weekend… every week.

So, what do we have?

We have a bustling city during the work week with only about 20-30% of the office filled.
For those who do show up? They’re working in an office with 30% occupancy, and spending most of their days in Zoom meetings.

My hot take?

These numbers demonstrate just how unsatisfied the vast majority of the work population is with their current vocation.
These numbers demonstrate that while the work population can get their tasks done, other components like mentorship, lending a helping hand in an adhoc moment, or being a part of something greater than the individual’s to-do list are falling by the wayside.
Companies can do whatever they want to encourage people back to the office (free lunch, beer carts, free parking, etc), but if they don’t tackle this bigger issue of overall workplace satisfaction and the need for employees to want to be a part of the greater vision, we’re going to have even bigger corporate challenges…
Especially at this moment in time, when we’re on the cusp of what economists are predicting will be a deep recession.

Buckle up.