- January 13, 2021
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Business, Management, Productivity
I’ve said over the past few years that I’ve never been a big fan of working remotely. And even though current circumstances have forced most office workers to work from home or work from socially-distant coworking spaces, I still think it’s essential that we return to the office as soon as it’s safe to do so.
For years, I’ve said that remote work can be a bad idea. For one thing, you miss out on the face-to-face communication that everyone needs in an office setting. Sure, it may be inefficient at times. People gather in the break room or around the coffee machine for several minutes. Or someone pokes their head into your cubicle to tell you about their weekend. And don’t get me started on the meetings that could have been handled with a single email.
Working remotely was supposed to take care of all that. We wouldn’t be interrupted, we wouldn’t get dragged into interminable conversations over coffee, and we would find that so many of our meetings would just fall by the wayside, and we could get work done.
At least they did until management discovered Zoom, and they found that it was even easier to have more and longer meetings because everyone could do it from home.
As time went on, people found they could be more efficient, they didn’t have to commute, and they were saving money on gas, wardrobe, and even eating lunch out three times a week.
But more importantly, they found that they missed their colleagues. They missed being interrupted. They missed the coffee break talks. They missed seeing the lower halves of people’s bodies.
(They still don’t miss the meetings, though. No one does.)
But what they’re really missing is the professional development that comes with being in the office.
The Serendipity of Professional Development
Think back to your own workplace interactions from the last few years. How many opportunities came your way because you happened to be in the right place at the right time? How many times did you bump into someone and they had some important information or an exciting opportunity?
Here’s an example for you:
You and I are sitting in a meeting, and we’re talking about a particular product development idea. Or we’re talking about a customer issue. Or we have a problem we’re trying to solve.
As we’re sitting in the coffee room or the break room talking about this issue, our coworker, Elena, walks by. You just happen to remember a discussion you had with Elena only two days ago about the very product development issue we’re discussing. Or she mentioned something to help our customer. Or you remember she had the experience and knowledge to work on our little problem.
So you say to me, “You know, I think we should get Elena working on this issue. She’d be pretty good at it.”
Now, that conversation only happened because 1) you were briefly chatting with Elena a couple of days ago, and 2) your memory was jogged because she walked by the room you and I were meeting in.
Does it seem a little far-fetched? Sure. How often is something like that going to happen? Once a quarter? Once a month? Once a week?
Maybe it doesn’t happen that often, but how often does it happen now?
It may not happen very often, but the fact is, those serendipitous connections happen an awful lot more than you realize.
And so, how many professional development opportunities have been missed this year because we’re not sharing the same space anymore?
I realize it’s still not safe to do so, but I think we need to return to our offices and workspaces when the time is right? I don’t think we need to keep working remotely once this is all over. Our professional development may come to a shuddering halt if we do.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including pivoting within their industry. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Photo credit: Sanuas (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)