I love town squares. Especially the ones scattered through Europe dating back many centuries. A place where people could meet in person and exchange ideas, connect, and learn. Our need to connect with others did not go away with Covid. If anything, it accentuated the importance of in-person connection.
Return to office is being mandated by many, if not most, companies these days. A lot of people will say it’s because of productivity and what people gain by being together, but there are many statistics and studies that counter that view with remote work proving more productive. Other benefits of remote work include saving time from commuting, environmental impact, the ability for single parents to manage family responsibilities and so on, only challenge the return to work mandate even more.
What if we challenged the idea that work is a place? What if work is where we congregate instead of an address? What if work is a cruise ship, or a hotel at Coachella, or a ski lodge in Banff? Why can’t we connect there? Does work have to be where the supply room is so employees can get more staples for their stapler? And what if we thought about return to office with a different idea of metrics, like for annual planning, or summers off, or whatever? Companies are looking to offset the high cost of office space with alternatives. What happens when we mix employee connections and productivity with personal growth and a sense of adventure (like white water rafting trip as an office)
Work is not where the paperclips are kept. It is not where the boss’s office is, or the projector or the cubicles or the water cooler. Imagine all of the places an office can be. A beach. A farmhouse. A dock on a mountain lake. A ski chalet. A cruise ship. An Irish pub. A rented flat in Ventimiglia. An RV. Anywhere your mind can find a WiFi connection.
What if the office is where we wanted to be? What if we included the cost of all of the team off-sites and all of the empty office space, and inefficiencies and we aligned company get togethers with where the employees wanted to be? What if the annual planning meeting was in Anguilla in November, and the annual sales meeting was in Antibes in April?
Work is where worker happiness and productivity intersect. Work is where flexibility and work/life balance play together. Work is where the commutes are shorter, the talent pool is larger, the productivity is higher, and it is where the future exists.
Maybe it is time to make the office remote, not just the work.