Let’s unpack this data on why return to office (RTO) is desirable to some
(Context, most respondents were forced into unplanned remote working, at short notice, because of the pandemic. Most companies had to at very short notice deploy a digital office.)
54.8% say they want to come to the office for face-to-face collaboration. There are no surprises here. Most co-located teams have a synchronous “speaking culture” (that is information moves through the organisation via the spoken word.) This does not translate well online. At all.
I can guarantee that if these same individuals were trained to become highly skilled at digital communication and collaboration, were schooled in the principles of asynchronous working and communication, this percentage would fall dramatically.
54% say they want to come to the office to socialise. Makes perfect sense. Humans are social creatures. However, you do not need an office to socialise. We know this because many fully distributed, office-less organisations, regularly arrange for their teams to meet in-person at different venues throughout the year.
44.4% say that leaving for the office creates a boundary for them between work and personal life. Again you don’t need an office to create that boundary. Prior to the pandemic which basically forced everyone to shelter at home, remote workers had so many choices as to where they could work on any given day. You could decide to work from home, a coffee shop, a co-working space, a friends house or even go on a workation if you wanted. Do not confuse pandemic restricted working from home and regular work-from-anywhere arrangements.
39.2% say that they have better equipment at the office. Being forced into remote working with no preparation lies at the core of this issue. Most fully distributed teams have all the tools and equipment they need to work effectively from anywhere. Again this has more to do with planning than it does the office having better equipment.
Only 30.6% said they came in to have manager face time. Sorry managers employees are just not that into you 😉 – Seriously though, the question is, if managers were as visible and accessible in the digital office as they are in a physical office, why would you need face time with them in a building?
Only 15.5% said the office was quieter than their home. We have to be cognisant of the fact not everyone’s home is conducive to working from, this was especially the case during the forced stay at home periods. However, as mentioned above. During normal times, (hopefully returning soon,) you had a lot of flexibility as to where you chose to work from on any given day.
The bottom line is, we have proven, way before the pandemic that you do not need an office to provide individuals with the needs expressed here.