As a result of COVID 19, many commentators are espousing a “new normal” paradigm which sees our major cities deserted, office blocks empty, and employees continuing to work from home.
Whilst I understand the benefits of working remotely, particularly for those with long commutes and/or young families, I do not subscribe to the “new normal” theory.
Firstly, it fails to understand that humans are innately social animals.
We require human engagement.
We need the type of daily interaction that you get when you go to the office or place of work – social banter between work colleagues, Friday night drinks, discussing the outcome of a recent meeting you just attended, etc.
These are the connections that are lost when you’re working from your dining room table or from your allocated room in the house. The value of casual communication with your colleagues is grossly underestimated and under-appreciated by those forecasting we will all be working from home in the future.
Meetings over Zoom and Skype simply don’t cut it as far as social engagement is concerned. Connection over a telecommunications network is a lot like drinking lite beer – something is just not quite right.
Additionally, working from home can never replace the immediacy of communication.
When my office is in full operation it’s possible to hear everything that is going on, and as any business operator knows, some days present challenges. With our team in one place, issues can be raised and addressed straight away, without waiting for a predetermined or routine telephone hook up.
The business world is centered on establishing and maintaining relationships, human contact and interaction.
Establishing new relationships over a telephone line or video call is, at best, difficult. The ability to see someone’s body language in a meeting and the subtle nuances cannot be easily, if at all, gauged on the other end of a video link.
For those of you that have tried to establish eye contact while presenting to a large group over Zoom, I have no doubt you are nodding in agreement.
And finally, the separation between home life and work life is easy when they are physically separated, but when the lines between home and work are blurred, social disharmony within the family can arise.
Working from home may sound idyllic, but after 6 months many people are experiencing frustration and isolation, some are suffering backaches from poor set-ups, and people are looking to head back into the cities and office blocks again. Even if it’s just to get a decent coffee.
A recent GBTA survey found that 82% of respondents still feel face-to face meetings are ‘more’ or ‘much more’ effective while only 14% of respondents believed that virtual meetings were equally effective.
It’s time to head out of home and back to the office.
About the author:
Duncan Adams is the Managing Director of Astra Apartments.