According to reports, workers are increasingly returning to the office: A recent study revealed that the rate of people working in the office has climbed back to 47.5% of what it was at the top of 2020. At the same time, a consistent 45 to 50% of employees are now on a hybrid schedule — establishing that hybrid is now the predominant work arrangement compared to both working full-time in the office and remote work.
Which begs the question: what purpose does an office serve in a hybrid environment? If employees have the flexibility to choose when (or if) they come into an office, how can managers help guide them towards doing the right type of work in the right place?
In this article we’ll take a look at what purpose the office serves and what types of work managers should navigate their teams to tackling at the office vs at home.
Why Should You Go into the Office?
Let’s start with the biggest question on your team’s mind.
Understanding when it makes sense to work from the office starts by knowing why it might make sense to do so — in other words, defining the purpose of the office.
In a recent McKinsey blog, Your Office Needs a Purpose, the authors point out that many of the places designed for connection—whether that’s entertainment, hospitality, or otherwise—all have a clearly defined purpose that’s linked to their intended goals. They clearly answer the question of “why”.
But the same can’t be said for the workplace, especially given the fact that employees have spent the last two years perfecting their work from home routine.
So how do managers begin to answer the question of “why”? They start by identifying where remote work falls short.
As The Atlantic reports, there are three common scenarios where remote work is not ideal:
- Acclimating new, inexperienced, or younger employees to the workplace
- Building new teams — specifically, by inhibiting knowledge sharing and “soft work”
- Creative brainstorming for innovative ideas
Once managers understand the “why” behind the office, guiding their team towards the right type of work for the specific environment becomes much more clear.
When should you work from the office?
Let’s take a look at some examples of work that’s better suited for the office:
Onboarding new hires
Who wants to show up for their first day of work only to be greeted by a bunch of Zoom screens? Managers should encourage their team to come into the office work when a new hire joins, ideally within that very first week.
Reviews or 1:1s
While it may not work out to have every 1:1 in the office, prioritizing and/or rearranging schedules so that most 1:1s happen in person is huge for establishing that personal connection and picking up on body language cues that are often missed during video calls.
Nothing gets the creative juices flowing quite like having everyone in the office together. In fact, studies have shown that video calls can actually hinder creative ideation because of how much mental focus is zapped when staring at a screen.
Safe to say that we all have had our fill of virtual team building events. Hosting your next team building event or day from the office is an easy win when it comes to answering the “why” behind the workplace.
Work from Home vs. Office: What work is better suited from home?
In offices with a hybrid work policy, it’s also important to think about when it’s more beneficial to work from home than commute to the office. Helping employees understand the benefits of a home office and how it can contribute to higher productivity with certain tasks is just as important as conveying the benefits of coming into the office.
A few of the times that it can be better to work from home are:
- When working independently
- When working on tasks that require deep thinking and focus
- When completing day-to-day or routine tasks, like monthly expense reports or data audits
When it’s time to simply get down to business and complete work that’s familiar or repetitious, and easily done in isolation (without requiring external contributions), it can help to find that level of focus at a private home office. However, if an employee is seeking a recharge, creative stimulation, or external input on those projects, it may be preferable to take that work into the office.
Finding time to get together in person
Even with a clearly defined purpose and set expectations around the type of work to be done at the office vs home, employees may still need help actually coordinating when they come together in person. Rather than manager’s having to shoulder the responsibility of coordinating hybrid schedules, they should look for a way to make that information instantly accessible across the entire team. This way, employees can take scheduling into their own hands without wasting value time or energy trying to play calendar detective to figure it out.
Give Your Team Good Reason to Work in the Office
Ultimately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for planning when your team should be home and when they should be in the office. But these tips should help employees understand the benefits of each, enabling them to make the most constructive choices.
Leaders as well as employees will only encounter obstacles with a “work from home vs. office” mentality. The future of work will likely continue to allow room for a little bit of both. The real consideration shouldn’t be either/or but rather when working in the office makes sense and when working at home might be more ideal. And this can change from day to day or project to project.
Thanks to the flexibility of hybrid workplaces, a return to the office can feel like an opportunity or even a fresh change of scenery for many employees. Giving them options means they will always have access to the right environment best suited to them to help them do their best work.