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Return to Office Reflections

#TLDR: Key points that create differences between managers and employees regarding return to work and how #PBJAM can help

In a recent McKinsey article, I read that while 2/3 CEOs would like the workforce to return to the office for at least 3 days per week, 2/3 employees would like to work from home at least 2 or more days per week.

Management viewpoint: When most of the workforce is remote, though online availability has improved, management is missing the intangible benefits of people working together in the office. The proverbial water cooler chats are missing. Non-verbal communication is missing. The ability of junior employees to pick up clues about company culture, ways of working from their seniors are missing. On a more operational level, even scheduling who will be in office when is becoming a challenge. Then there are questions around whether to differentiate compensation for remote and on-site staff (maybe additional money for commute, office lunches, even extended childcare?). Also, there are questions around ergonomics and safety while the staff is working remotely, which feed into insurance premiums and workers comp guidelines. Hence, having staff in the office more often seems attractive from a management viewpoint.

Employee viewpoint: Freedom from the daily commute has been quite a relief for many suburban parents (and has also helped with pollution and traffic!). At the same time, the commute time has quickly been absorbed as 'working' time for most. Flexibility to be able to work at home (being able to take care of errands) has also been greatly appreciated. In fact, some have even relocated to more desirable geography driven by their circumstances and needs. Many have rediscovered their passions (like playing guitar in between two meetings, or gardening for 15 minutes after lunch, or taking a walk with the dog before the first meeting in the morning) that have improved their own perceptions around health and mental stability. Over time, employees have also realized that they can be more productive by staying home and avoiding non-value-adding activities like commute, informational meetings, and workplace distractions like chatty neighbors. Also, there are a few who have allowed work to blend in their daily lives so much that they have forgotten where the "off" button is! But overall, employees see lot more positives of working from home than in the office.

My reflection: It would be naive to expect "return-to-pre-pandemic time practices". So, we all need to gear up for a hybrid workplace that is leaning more towards remote working. As managers, the focus needs to be on capturing the lost values of working together in office environments by exploring new options (#PBJAM being one of them!). Management is accountable in forming and nurturing #purposeful #relationships at workplace that allow for effective exchange of skills. As employees, the focus needs to be on developing clarity around when to work and when not to work and also on being more aware of your colleagues (not falling for out-of-site-out-of-mind syndrome). It is easy to get absorbed in individual milestones and deliverables and lose site of what the company/function/team goals are. In this regard, creating and maintaining #clarity around company #values, #goals and #targets is critical. We did discuss this aspect in our article on Rockefeller Habits. The #opportunities opening due to this unique post-pandemic world are exciting, but only if the #pitfalls are handled judiociously. Here is to a wonderful decade (2021-2030) of growth!

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