There continues to be a lot of discussion about the changing face of workplaces and workforces – whether we should be working from home, remotely, in the office, within set hours, or some combination of all of the above. And of course, when faced with uncertainty, there is the ongoing debate around whether we can (or should) continue to try and mandate how and where people work under the guise of ensuring that we maintain culture and support wellbeing.
What do we know?
It is time to stop debating the pros and cons of where we work
The move and desire for flexibility in when and how we do our work is not a new concept – in fact, it is a foundational element of agency – a known human need to feel a sense of control or influence over tasks or situations in our life.
After experiencing the extra flexibility afforded by working from home, many employees are not willing to give this up. If they can’t get the flexibility they need with your organisation they are likely to seek it elsewhere. As shown above, recent employment data shows that for the first time on record in Australia’s history there are more jobs advertised than there are people looking for work. People have choices, people want control over where and how they work, and cultural connections can remain strong within hybrid teams when everyone in the team is committed to a common purpose, to their work and to each other.
So, what is driving some organisations to mandate a return to the office?
Gartner research shows that one of the things most worrying CEOs now is losing Culture in a workforce that is working remotely. Losing connection to colleagues, and connection to the organisation is a legitimate concern. The option to mandate a return to the office however, has not built a stronger connection to the organisation. Instead it has just upset people who have been enjoying the extra agency and flexibility over how they get their work done and the life-balance this has afforded.
Let’s think about culture
Let’s break culture into pieces and think about the connection to workplace
Each one of these things can exist completely independently from place. We just need to be creative and purposeful in our design and execution to ensure they are visible and can be experienced by everyone, wherever they are, and however we agree to work together.
Instead of mandates, encourage conversations among teams to work out how they work best together, planning regular times for teamwork, and let them tell you what they need to feel connected with each other. Building connection and bringing people together through their work and common purpose will do more to build a positive team culture than forcing people to work in the office and mandating relationships.