May 12, 2021

To Office or Not to Office? That Is NOT the Question.

Jeff Rohrs

CMO

Jeff Rohrs here, Filo.co CMO, pondering our polarized society in which far too many questions are posed as either/or conundrums as opposed to multicolored possibilities. 

The latest is the question of whether or not workers will return to the office post-pandemic. Consider these headlines from just this past week:

So let me settle the questions at hand definitively:

Q1: Will workers return to the office? 

A: Yes.

Q2: Will workers continue to work remotely?

A: Yes.

The author pondering "to office or not to office" with his friend Yorick.

“But wait! That’s cheating,” you say. No, that’s the reality that existed before the pandemic and the reality that will continue as the pandemic subsides. I’ve worked from a mix of the office, home, and road for over two decades. Remote work is nothing new, it’s just that every single worker now has firsthand experience with its pros and cons.

We are emerging from the greatest workforce migration since the Industrial Revolution. The shift from office to home office was imposed upon us by forces beyond our control and pushed the ability of organizations and employees to adapt. Some thrived in the new work-from-home environment, some did not. Some found social connection through technology while others struggled. And some welcomed the conversion of commuter time to family time while some longed for the camaraderie of their coworkers. 

The feelings that flow from these experiences are complex, and they will not be resolved by an edict that everyone must return to the office. Google just discovered this as pressure from employees forced them to revise their back-to-the-office plans by adding more flexible remote work options. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, has ordered workers back to the office by July 14th with their CEO calling work from home an “aberration.” Will such a hardline approach work? Employee attrition at Goldman Sachs will be the measure—and that’s a dangerous game of chicken to play when predictions are that “The Great Resignation” is coming due to employees feeling more confident to pursue new opportunities post-pandemic. 

My fear is that just like mask-wearing, the question of "to office or not to office" will become a political battlefield with workers caught in the crossfire. CxOs and leaders across every organization must resist that polarizing debate and instead focus on the needs of their employees. If you agree that the future of your company is hybrid, then now is the time to focus on:

  • Better connecting employees whether they are in-office, WFH, or remote.  
  • Fostering relationships that bridge organizational and physical boundaries. 
  • Creating feedback loops to more readily identify and help employees who aren’t engaged.
  • Developing systems that ensure you aren’t creating an environment of “offices haves” and “remote have-nots.”
  • Deploying technology to assist with all of the above. 

That last point is where we hope to help here at Filo.co. We believe that today’s hybrid teams need a persistent, easy-to-use, virtual space for team collaboration, meetings, and events. Whether you’re in-office or remote, having a virtual office gives you the ability to customize rooms for different needs—be they pitch rooms with one-click resources at hand, war rooms for distributed teams to strategize, or personal spaces to connect and share with coworkers. We don’t claim to solve all of the challenges of a hybrid workforce, but we know from experience that giving everyone a shared playing field goes a long way to increasing productivity regardless of location. 

So “to office or not to office” is not the question. The question is whether your company is building bridges to help employees do their best work regardless of where they are today, tomorrow, or in the years to come.