Return to Office Reluctance

Here’s why people are reluctant to go back to the office.

Their employer says, “You need to come back to the office for collaboration, innovation, relationship building and networking!”

Only they can’t really explain how collaboration happens.
Or where the innovation comes from.
Or how the relationship building is done.
Or how you should build your network.

However, they are totally confident this stuff happens in the office. Even though there’s no process or training. It’s ‘osmosis’. Or magic. Or maybe the Business Fairy. 

Only it doesn’t happen in the office, it happens in the liminal spaces. The water cooler, the corridor, the lunch table. The walk to the meeting, the chat after the meeting. The coffee shop, the pub.

These spaces are in and around the office, they’re where you have those informal chats and make ad hoc connections. 

Only that’s not where you spend your time, because you have so much work to do you’re tied to your desk, in the actual office. You don’t get to be in these spaces, other than in your own time.

So the employer’s offer looks a bit like this

“We want you to come back to the office so you get to spend time that we don’t allocate to you in informal spaces that we don’t acknowledge so that stuff will happen that we don’t understand, recognise or reward because this is essential to the success of our business.”

And their employees weigh that against the cost, time and effort of going into an office where it’s harder to do the focused work they get rewarded for and, unsurprisingly, they find it rather less than compelling.

“No, you’re alright”, they reply, “I’ll carry on working from home.”

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