Why managers want to RTO

Why do senior managers want everyone back in the office?

Is it because their identity depends upon it?

Let’s assume most of these managers are 40+. Let’s assume they are male, white, middle-class, married with kids.

This is basically me, back when I was still in corporate.

I had a demanding job. I worked long hours, with an hour-long commute each way. I went on a business trip at least every quarter, often every month, which meant being away for a week or more, sometimes over weekends.

I brought work home some nights and occasionally over the weekend.

When I wasn’t working, I was spending time with my family or doing work on the house.

I didn’t have the time or energy for hobbies, for joining groups outside of work or in my local community. I got my social contact through work (where I had made some great friends), through my family and mostly through other parents we had made friendships with (my wife mostly sorted out the social calendar).

I identified with my job.

No, I OVER-identified with my job.

I never intended it to be like that but it just crept up on me.

I’m no workaholic but I was serious about my responsibilities and committed to delivering what I promised. So work expanded as I got more senior roles, more people to manage, bigger projects to deliver.

My work became where I expressed myself, where I achieved things, where I established my position in the world. The office was the domain in which I felt most certain, most important and an individual in my own right.

How would I have coped with the pandemic? Work from home, the family domain where I am ‘just Dad’? Having my team remote from me? Denied the sanctuary of my own office? Not having people to chat to? Not having places to be, where I was needed and the focus of attention?

I think I would have struggled and felt that my status had been a bit reduced, that my effectiveness was diminished.

So I would have been quite happy to get back to the office.

I say that as someone who was used to working in distributed teams, across countries and time zones, in an asynchronous way. Working remotely isn’t a problem for me.

But I think I would have had a kind of existential crisis.

Getting up and putting on the suit, going to a place where my status and me role were clear, where I had a clear role, where I got to hang out with my peers, that was a massive part of who I was as an individual.

It was an identity that I had grown used to, a mask that fitted me so well it was hard to tell where the mask ended and I began.

I would have wanted to get back to the office so I could go back to the comfort of my ‘office identity’. A quick fix to the discomfort.

So I understand why managers want to get back to the office. But I still don’t think it’s the right thing to do, for their staff or their organisation.

And, because over-identifying with your job is really bad for you, ultimately, it’s not the right thing for them either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *