Yesterday I made another trip into the office. Here’s what I am learning…
- Unless you simply don’t have adequate space to work at home, there is no point whatsoever in going into an open plan office to sit on conference calls all day. Sitting on a conference calls in an open plan office is a horrible experience.
- Also – after 18 months of working from home, one forgets that individual conversations in an open-plan office are not confidential between participants.
- Commuting is an act of pouring your life away.
- The serendipitous interactions you are likely to make in the office are possibly going to be with different networks to the ones you work in online. Serendipity is perfectly possible in both realms. If you are only bumping into people in person that you would do online, see point 3.
- In-person interaction is different. But not necessarily any richer or thinner than that that is had online.
- Everyone in the room means you can access different tools and techniques to when people are sitting in teams. Different tools and techniques, but not necessarily better ones.
- We still have a lot of way to go to really rethink office work in a way that takes proper advantage of the digital tools that have been available at scale for two decades. The office is still seen by many as some sort of “natural” environment for humans as if we stepped from the Great Plains of Africa straight into a world designed by Hermann Miller. Nothing about the office is natural.
- If I were to plan an ideal “in the office” day, then it would be to have one or two meetings booked in with people who will also be in the office, probably one over lunch, and then intentionally not have anything fixed in the diary to maximise the opportunity for the impromptu conversations with people with whom I don’t usually interact.
- Of course that in turn depends on them also not being block-booked on Teams/Zoom/Meet calls all day.
In years BC (Before Covid) people used to moan about meetings not being useful/productive/engaging. Adding a bit of friction into meeting organisation to make them harder to arrange, and then having fewer of them was needed back then.
It’s even more necessary now given that meeting rooms no longer are the inhibitor to endless sessions that they were BC. And it’s also necessary for us to take stock of how really poor meeting practices become even easier to fall into when things are online (double booked? Why not try to attend both meetings simultaneously whilst also doing your email!).
But these are things we need to evaluate from the perspective of the new realities. Few people now will accept pouring their actual lives away sitting in cars or trains getting to an office.