Last weekend, I took my daughter to a coffee shop. It was the bribe I offered to get her to come with me to the supermarket since they are right next to each other. As we walked inside, there was a sign that stated masks were required. All of the staff and customers were wearing their masks just as we’ve all been doing for the last year.
While we were waiting for our drinks to be made, we walked next door to the supermarket to grab the one item (also coffee) that we came for. It was a much different scene in the supermarket. There, none of the staff and only about one-third of the customers were wearing masks. When we went back to the coffee shop to pick up our drinks, our masks went back on. It was pretty wacky.
The next day, I dropped my daughter off at school (a new tradition established during COVID), and headed into the office. It was our first day fully back in office and also the first day that our office policies had changed in accordance with updated state and federal guidelines.
For the last seven months that I’ve been in the office, I’ve used HqO’s Capacity Manager tool to request access to our building. I’ve worn my mask throughout the office, including while at my desk. All of a sudden, it was all over. No more requests to come in, just show up. No more masks required. Show your face and smile at your coworkers. It was awesome!
Companies all over the world are contemplating their return-to-office plans. They are considering everything from space planning and reconfiguration to employee retention, amenities, and benefits. They are wondering if employees will show up if they are asked to be there. Even if they do, how long will they stay? After all, a large chunk of the workforce is asking for more flexibility.
These companies are thinking about some of the recent research that has come out about productivity. For example, Google engineers wrote 30% less code during the pandemic. A Colliers survey of 445 of their tenant companies found that employee productivity declined by an average of 22%. These numbers are simply not sustainable for any company.
Here’s what I believe now that we’ve made the journey back to the office: the first day will be hard for everyone. It won’t be hard in a bad way, but in the ‘first day of school’ kind of way. We saw everyone’s excitement on our first day back. We filled the day and the rest of the week with activities, food, drinks, and opportunities for people to get reacquainted.
Some of the most popular events were optional. These included walk-and-talks where groups of HqOers walked around Boston to get to catch up with each other or meet for the first time; an enhanced weekly happy hour that led to several people heading out for dinner after; and in-person meetings, including our weekly Demos & Wins meeting. As our Senior Vice President of Finance and Co-founder, Greg Gomer, said: “It was electric!”
Now that the restrictions are lifted, it’s time to get back to normal. It’s time to get back to the office. It’s time to collaborate, boost productivity, and increase engagement. It’s time to rebuild the trust and empathy in the workplace that only comes from live and in-person human interaction. It’s time to relearn how to read facial expressions and body language in the ways only possible when you’re seeing someone IRL.
It’s time! Let’s go!