Vaccine distribution is on the rise in many markets around the world. The weather is getting warmer. It seems like every company is working to define its return to office (RTO) strategy. In fact, it’s not so much that companies are defining strategies. Instead, they are re-defining.
In the spring of 2020, there was a ton of uncertainty about COVID-19. Most companies sent their office employees home. Many companies — especially the big tech companies — made big, bold statements to the market about a shift to a fully remote workforce. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Salesforce all said their employees may never return to the office.
Google sacked plans to develop a significant office footprint in the San Francisco Bay Area. Twitter immediately said they would reduce their office footprint moving forward. Salesforce suggested they would do the same.
Looking back over the last year, it seems clear in hindsight that actions didn’t always match words. While Facebook and Google told employees that they were going to allow more flexibility and remote work, each was taking more office space and building new campuses. Facebook leased over 700k square feet in Midtown, New York. Google is building a new campus in Seattle, WA, and even committed another seven billion dollars toward real estate development.
In the last two months, all of the aforementioned companies (with the exception of Twitter), have come out stating that they will welcome employees back to their offices. Salesforce is just the latest in a long string of companies announcing their return to office plans.
It seems like every time I read the news, there is another story about the return to office. Some say there will be a hub-and-spoke model (although that position seems to be losing steam). Others suggest that the days of the traditional office are gone and that offices will only be used for collaboration. Flexibility is being discussed mostly in days of the week, rather than hours of the day.
Here’s my return to office advice: don’t take advice from someone who isn’t already back in the office.
At HqO, many of us have been in the office since September. Those first few weeks back were hard. There was a lot of uncertainty. There was even more misinformation. It was a little anxiety-inducing to be around other people for the first time in months. But, after those first few weeks, things got better. It started to feel normal again.
Our office invested in air filters, plastic dividers for the desks, distancing and mask policies, new technology tools (which we built) to manage office capacity, and more. It was all communicated clearly to the employees and updated regularly in the building app. Slowly, team members started to return to the office. Today, most employees are back in the office and working flexibly to achieve the required business outcomes.
At HqO, we drink our own champagne (or eat our own dogfood, whichever expression you prefer). After all, how can we engage with customers in commercial real estate if we aren’t in the building? Our goal is to help our customers lead their customers back to work and to do that, we need to know what it’s like ourselves.
The next time you read an article, a blog post, or even see a news headline on the topic of the future of the office, ask yourself: Is this author writing this article from the living room couch or from the office? Then decide how valuable the opinion might be to you.