Why bother to work in an office at all?

Office workers have had a roller coaster year, some have continued to work in a socially distant office environment, others have worked remotely from home. Society has proved it is possible to work from home but the Jury is still out on the social effects and the effectiveness of home working.

What is the new definition our working week?

(1) Working together leads to increased creativity and innovation. The office environment encourages competition and new ideas. Offices are a breeding ground for new ideas and the sharing of information creating knowledge and innovation. Research on the effects of home working reports a decrease in productivity, inspiration, creativity and innovation. A drop in staff motivation and focus was also noted.

(2) Office space enables collaboration. It is thought that remote working reduces collaboration and employee activity. This in turn will lead to companies looking at regrowing their physical office footprint. Team collaboration is more feasible in an office environment. People are social creatures, face to face interactions help people build trust, understanding and a sense of shared mission. It also leads to greater problem solving. Although staff may have opportunities to work part-time from home this cannot replace the need for co-working creating team dynamics and the sharing of best practice.

(3) Sharing Space Boosts Productivity. A huge threat posed by remote working is the degradation of the social bonds that are necessary to produce teamwork. Remote working makes it difficult to know if your team accepts you and respects your work. Communicating electronically often leads to misunderstandings and prevents the subtle physical signals that make up so much of human communication. Remote working limits external stimuli and can trigger a physiological and psychological response similar to animlas entering hibernation. This can lead to a natural slow down where people sleep more and get more forgetful. Working in an office enables quicker, more effective communication, better problem solving and greater productivity.

(4) We are humans, we have a social need! People need a sense of community which helps satisfy our need for social engagement. In-person contact is crucial for brainstorming and debating ideas. People need eye contact, body language, joking, laughing and socialising. For years people have met longtime friends, business partners, even spouses in the workplace. Some scientists fear that extended periods of working from home will not only damage productivity but will build a mental health crisis.

Brian Williamson

Brian Williamson is the Commercial Director of WMA Group.