By Jim Grey (about)
It’s all over the news: workers are quitting their jobs instead of giving up working from home.
Who blames them? So much work can be done from wherever there’s a good Internet connection. Your commute is a quick trip downstairs or down the hall. You have fewer interruptions. You can much more fluidly blend work and life.
Yet many companies want people back in the office. It defies logic — until you consider that company leaders are sick of Zoom. They are ready to meet in person again.
Think about it. What do your managers do all day? If they’re anything like me, they sit in a lot of meetings. On a typical day, I have six hours of meetings. During the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom — and it’s exhausting. I’m spent at the end of each day like I never was before. I think many people in leadership have the same experience.
This could be driving us to want people to come back to the office, and to think that working together in the office is better. It is, for us leaders. We would do well to remember that most people in our companies are doing just fine at home.
I’m sure that if I were doing the kind of work I did before I moved into leadership many years ago — coding, testing, writing — I would not want to return to the office with all of its noise and interruptions. But as a leader, absent a radical shift in how the kind of work I do gets done, I will prefer to talk with people in person, which means being in the office.
I went to the office on Tuesday for a big group meeting. Leaders in Product, Engineering, and Architecture met to figure out the platform and architecture work necessary to support the product roadmap. We met all day, and then we went out for dinner together.
I normally hate all-day meetings. But Tuesday was glorious. Our discussion was fluid; we even bantered. Nobody froze because of Internet problems. During breaks, we talked casually. We accomplished a great deal and we built camaraderie. And, critically, I had energy to spare at day’s end.
The next day I worked from home. One of my meetings was with the CTO and the VP of Product, both of whom happened to be in the office. They were able to talk easily and I struggled a little to get a word in edgewise via Zoom. I regretted not driving in!
There are real disadvantages to going back to the office. I’ll gain a long commute back. I’ll no longer be able to throw in a load of laundry, or ride my bike over lunch, or even start dinner immediately at quitting time. Heck, during the pandemic there were even a few afternoons when, after a rough night’s sleep, I took a 30-minute snooze. That was amazing — and impossible in the office, as there’s nowhere to do it, and it’s generally frowned upon anyway.
But I will happily trade those things away to regain good, fluid, personal conversations with people, and be less drained at day’s end.
Many people I work with will keep working from home. That’s fine; I can Zoom with them from the office. But most leaders at my company will return to the office four or five days a week. Most of my meetings involve them anyway, and we will meet in person.
Companies will be wise to remember that experiences vary depending on the nature of the job and role, and work to find compromises that give people as much of what they want as possible, in terms of where they work.
9 replies on “The hidden reason companies want you back in the office”
This rings true to me. During the beginning of the pandemic, marathon meetings were incredibly challenging to handle, and something that I’ve only recently figured out how to tolerate.
My hope is for the return to work move that I can strike a balance between my engineers who want and need that heads down time, and being able to have that high bandwidth communication in person.
That’s it – balance. I wonder if we’ll end up in a world where we require people within driving distance to come in for some meetings but leave them at home otherwise. I wish I were more visionary in this area.
The companies that want people back in the office are BS. Automattic/WordPress.com, InVision, Zapier and other technology companies larger than your employer are remote, Jim.
It’s not BS. Those companies have worked hard to build a remote culture. It doesn’t happen automatically. It doesn’t happen overnight.
[…] For those of you who don’t want to go back, this may be a reason why your leaders want you back in the office. […]
Thanks for the alternate perspective. Honestly had not thought about that.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great article, Jim. I work a hybrid schedule – home whenever possible and in the bank when needed. In Marketing World, there are things that must be done out in the real world. Sometimes I travel to other offices for meetings or spend the day at the office gathering supplies for an event. On those days, putting on a dress, seeing people, and ordering lunch out feel like a luxury. Days at home, I put on my yoga pants, roll up my sleeves and settle in with my to do list. I can do a few chores while waiting for lunch to cook and go straight into home life when my work is done. It’s a wonderful balance.
So far, the company has been pleased with the results that come with this flexible schedule and I’m thrilled. It’s the best of both worlds!
I currently work in the office Tuesday and Thursday and at home otherwise. It’s a great compromise that gives me time with some other people I work with and a break from being in this house all the time, while allowing me to limit my commuting and have greater flexibility.
That does sound like the perfect compromise. It’s certainly a nice change of pace.