We’ve been talking about how the pandemic has shaped the workplace for the past 18 months. We’ve been talking about the effect of the pandemic on employees for the same amount of time. We’ve been talking about the “great resignation” of employees from our companies for the past six months. It feels like one of those things that you watch on TV and is so absurd that it doesn’t quite register in your brain as real.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we closed our Calgary office, and have only been back a handful of times for meetings when it was safe to do so until the building was sold to a new owner and we walked away for good. Since then everyone has been working from home and no one is really excited about the idea of going to the office again. This is sad for me because I’m the kind of Startup founder that probably fantasized the most about what kind of office we’d have one day. Weird, I know, but I’ve been in some pretty cool offices and dreamed of having my own. My office would be open-concept with lots of glass walls and dark, rich wood flooring. And industrial ceiling with all the pipework exposed and painted black, like a Starbucks. We’d have great snacks and a fully stocked kitchen, and really good coffee at all times.
But, as we’ve talked about before, with the increased agency of employees, mandating our staff back to the office is risky business. If you want to work from home, you can find a company with great compensation that will allow you to work from home. It’s a competitive advantage for companies recruiting great talent. It’s why Allan Iverson didn’t have to worry about practice. When you’re that good, and you know it, you just have to show up for games.
What role does the office play in the system that gets the most out of our people? Are we a better company with everyone working remote? We now have employees working from four different cities, and we certainly can’t have offices in four different cities. But is there a difference between in-person and online interactions between teams?
What role does the office play in making the most of our people? Is it a vital organ or is it like the appendix, that we simply cut out and throw away if it ever becomes a nuisance?
What baffles me is that from a capability perspective, nothing changed when the pandemic hit. We’ve been able to hold online meetings with colleagues for about a decade now. Yes, the technology has improved over the past 18 months along with Zoom’s stock price, but this was something we were always able to do. There was no reason why we didn’t shut our doors and send everyone home to work remote, pre-pandemic. We could have saved tons of money doing it. It’s just that no one ever thought of it. The thought of not having an office… anywhere… ever, was ludicrous. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it. It wasn’t until we had no choice, did we adapt, overcome the challenges and begin thinking about future alternatives that didn’t include open concept offices with dark, rich wood flooring and Starbucks ceilings.
And now working from anywhere is the new norm, so where do we go from here? I have a hard to time thinking this is a fad, because of our employee’s agency. The hybrid model makes the most sense as a team member and a team leader. But as the guy who pays the lease on our office space every month, that bill stays the same regardless of how many days you work out of it each week. So the office gets small to accommodate a fluid occupancy level, with few individual offices and more flex spaces and meeting rooms. Perhaps shared offices become a thing, like co-working spaces but with one or two companies instead of hundreds of individual members. Our company will use the office M/W/F and your company will use it on the Ts. I don’t think the pendulum has stopped swinging, and as lockdowns and work from home orders are beginning to be a thing of the past, especially in North America, what does the new normal look like?
– Chad Verity, CEO, Hölmetrics