I'm the founder of FutureWork IQ where I spend my time assisting businesses to improve their climate literacy so as to understand the projected impacts from the expanding climate crisis and how to adapt their workplaces in the face of these impacts.

I have in the past shared some insights into why large numbers of surveyed employees want some days in the office (See Why employees want “hybrid working”)

This is largely due to the fact that traditional in-office teams have very strong speaking cultures i.e. information predominantly moves through the organisation via the spoken word, as is evidenced by the number of meetings people attend when at the office. Speaking cultures really struggle working online as it quickly becomes exhausting to be in constant online synchronous meetings.

As a result of the above there is a misconception that in-person teams perform better than remote teams. Which research has show is just not true (See The Collective Intelligence of Remote Teams)

But here is another reason that is driving the back to the office mandates.

In many organisations leadership teams skew older and the research shows that those 50+ find online meetings inefficient and as a result prefer in-person meetings. It is no wonder that this age cohort wants people back in person.

Office escape velocity will only be reached if:

  • The entire team, especially the leadership, has the necessary digital literacy, fluency and dexterity to work effectively online.
  • The entire culture shifts from a speaking culture which requires many synchronous meetings to move information along, to a writing culture where information predominately moves via text through the organisation. (Having a writing culture will almost always also mean that there will be way less synchronous meetings.)

Being able to be as effective when meeting virtually as you are in person is a necessary skill if anywhere working is going to be successful. Without this skill, most will gravitate back to the office.