The last year has been full of conflicting opinions about returning to the office. Many businesses are navigating a return to office that aligns with both employees’ wants and business needs. The underlying question beneath it all is: what is the value of working in an office that can’t be achieved from home?
The last year has shown that the workplace is a lot more than just where people work. The workplace is a hub for connection, collaboration, and innovation. It’s a place where employees feel purpose and can connect to their work. It is a breeding ground for new friendships and meaningful professional relationships. As businesses continue to navigate what the best return-to-office strategy is for the upcoming year, I’ve put together a list of the key benefits of working in an office.
Working In An Office Drives A Sense Of Purpose And Belonging
The pandemic caused two-thirds of employees to reflect on their purpose in life. Of those folks, millennials were the biggest group who were reevaluating their purpose at work.
Creating a workplace that supports a sense of purpose and achievement is crucial. Being around coworkers who share a common goal reinforces individual purpose within your organisation. Folks can observe the actions of others and feel like they’re contributing to something. They can celebrate wins together.
Plus, working in an office helps drive a sense of belonging. Belonging refers to someone’s feeling of acceptance within a group or organisation. It’s something that can be hard to build, especially over Zoom and Slack when folks are taking meetings on mute and with cameras off. That’s why having an office is so important because it allows employees to build meaningful connections face-to-face.
Working In An Office Fosters Friendship And Real Connection
Employees stated connection with coworkers was the top reason why they chose to work from the office. These friendships and connections can play a major part in how satisfied employees feel while working on-site.
It’s easier for employees to make friends when they spend time together in the office versus when they only communicate digitally. After work, happy hours and coffee walks are often what bond employees. Studies show that full-time remote workers have 33% fewer friends at work than office workers.
Working In An Office Improves Productivity
There’s no denying that people can be productive from anywhere. On average, 13% of employees felt that they were more productive when they worked from home–but that’s not true for everyone. The physical workplace can improve productivity by enabling information sharing and accessibility. Most employees say that the ability to access information quickly and easily boosts their productivity levels. Plus, many employees find productivity to be the driving purpose of the workplace. In our recent At Work report, 61% of employees said productivity was the more important outcome of being in an office compared to building relationships.
Working In An Office Fosters Collaboration
Being in an office is much more conducive to collaboration than working from home. Studies show that people who work in an office spend 52% more time collaborating than they would if they worked in full-time remote positions. Remote employees spend the majority of their time working in a silo. Hybrid and full-time onsite employees, however, better split up their week with heads-down work, in-person collaboration, virtual collaboration, and socialising. That’s because they’re able to more fully use the office equipment, whiteboards, and in-person brainstorming sessions to work together.
Working In An Office Improves The Onboarding Experience
Some new hires have experienced successful onboarding remotely. But was that only out of pandemic necessity? In-person onboarding has significant benefits for new employees—and not just to help them overcome first-day jitters.
Being together in an office helps create the opportunity for new hires to ask questions, learn through osmosis, and feel more confident in their roles. Plus, new employees who are onboarding in an office will take less time to absorb the necessary information to make an impact in their role. They’ll be able to shadow other teammates, study existing processes, and understand the team’s objectives much more effectively.
Working In An Office Drives Career Growth For Employees
Being in the physical workplace is important for employees to grow in their careers. According to our At Work report, 96% of executives notice the work done in the office far more than the work done at home. So working in an office can benefit employees by helping them get in front of senior leaders who can influence their career growth.
Plus, working in an office can help you learn new skills to grow your career. For example, you can watch how senior leaders handle fires, lead presentations, or solve problems. You can ask your coworkers questions about areas unfamiliar to you. Being in an office inherently offers more exposure to what others are working on and can help you improve your skill set.
Embrace Your Company’s Culture
We learn how to navigate a workplace’s culture by watching other people and how they interact. Remote onboarding can be particularly difficult for people who are relatively new to the working world and transitioning from school to a job; they don’t get the opportunity to see how work works.
In general, new employees who work remotely are likely to find it harder to get things done — if you can’t watch what people are doing and if others can’t notice when you’re struggling, then everything about the job has to be taught more explicitly. Most organisations aren’t great at this and still rely on new hires gleaning a lot of what they need to know from their interactions with colleagues, and even longtime employees may not be aware of what needs to be taught.
If you’re an existing employee in an organisation, there are also benefits to spending time with your colleagues. The longer you’re separated from them, the more your overall sense of mission tends to drift. To ensure that your organisation retains elements of its culture that you value, it’s important to engage frequently with your coworkers to stay aligned about your core values. Your interactions with the newest hires are particularly important. They’ll learn a lot both from their conversations with you as well their observations.
Collaboration Feeds Ideas, Inspiration, And Productivity
It’s harder for institutional knowledge to make its way around in a remote environment. A lot of information sharing happens through short, informal conversations between people throughout a normal workday. Working from home requires that every interaction be scheduled or take place over text. That extra effort can make people less likely to ask quick questions or share something they just learned informally than if everyone was working together (especially considering the phenomenon of zoom fatigue).
The physical workplace enables moments of serendipity that can move projects along. You might bump into a colleague while thinking about a problem and ask a question that leads to a new and surprising solution. Maybe you grab a cup of coffee with a few coworkers and that leads to a new product or service. Or you notice a colleague struggling with a task and give them some tips that save a lot of time. We may not miss those moments when they’re not happening, but they can have a significant positive impact on our individual success, not just the success of the company.
Working more effectively is better for the organisation because it makes employees more productive. But the ability to collaborate freely benefits individuals as well. Having colleagues and friends at work increases job satisfaction. Good collaborative relationships also decrease frustration with work by making it easier for people to get help when they need it and learn new tasks that are just beyond their reach.
A common purpose, shared endeavours, and office nights out
Another benefit of spending time with colleagues in the office is that it reinforces the sense that you share a common mission. The phenomenon of goal contagion is a reflection that when you observe the actions of other people, you often adopt their exact goals. Being around a group of people who are working toward a common mission reinforces that goal in everyone in the workplace. When people feel connected to the mission of the organisation, it improves their overall satisfaction with their work. Believing in what the organisation wants to accomplish reinforces the sense that a job is a vocation or calling and not just a way to earn a paycheck.
These influences of spending time with colleagues in the workplace benefit both the organisation and the individual, but their effects (particularly on the individual) occur over the long term. In contrast, the benefits of working from home over returning to the office are more obvious to people in the short term. There is a strong bias for people to prefer options with short-term benefits, but don’t forget the reasons why in-person work may actually improve your working life.
It’s true, the value of the workplace has changed. It’s now a space for everything you might not get at home or virtually: collaboration, creativity, productivity, culture, and celebration. And when you create a space that supports all of the above, you’ll actually get employees excited to choose the office over working from home.