There are many things in life that we dismiss, not even realizing how much we value them until they are taken away. For a lot of us, the experience of living through a pandemic has demonstrated just how much some of those little things mean to us in our daily lives.
Millions have been working from home for months as companies have transitioned away from traditional office settings, prompting wide speculation about the future of office space, office buildings and downtowns across America.
Amid the continuing debate over worker productivity, flexible work hours and reduced overhead costs, many of us are realizing the link between offices and the cultures that bring companies to life.
Over the past year, we have missed more than our share of face-to-face meetings and the collegiality that comes with them. We have gone without lunches with clients and co-workers, and there have been no after-work Thunder games downtown. Office Christmas parties became a thing of the past, and forget about the birthday cakes, appreciation days, and donuts by the coffee pot.
Offices are where people work together and celebrate together. How can we know each other, appreciate each other and sacrifice for one another without being able to high-five each other after a win?
Sure, there are going to be some innovations in the use of office space after what we experienced last year. More workers may be sharing offices while they work from home part time, and rigid work schedules may become a thing of the past. If it isn’t already, mobile technology platforms will be the standard for executives and professionals because of the pandemic.
We can all be grateful that technology enabled us to step away from our offices and distance ourselves as COVID-19 was raging across the country last spring, but we can’t trade technology for organizational culture. Without offices, the impromptu conversations in the hallway don’t happen, training opportunities diminish, personal connections wither, communication suffers and company loyalty fades.
The office environment is an essential source of social connection, motivation and creativity. Maybe we overlooked that last year as we rushed to deploy our laptops and cloud-based data banks, but the little things we gave up in 2020 turned out to be big things we need to get back in 2021.