Close your eyes for a second and imagine work as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is the select few who can comfortably work from home (WFH). Think mainly older, wealthier, professionals sitting attentively in the dedicated office inside their home and outside in their garden. Now think about the 80+% of the iceberg hidden below the waterline, representing the vast majority of the working population who cannot build their careers or business whilst sitting in their living room or bedrooms.
COVID lockdowns imprisoned office workers at home and there is a myriad of research to support this! In fact, a recent OSiT survey suggests 95% would return to the office in a COVID free world. According to the British Council of Offices, just 20% intend to work from home full time.
Like most things, the decision to WFH means trade-offs. I do not miss my commute however I really miss my daily chats and laughter with my ECN colleagues. The workplace is like my 2nd home and this real-world social environment creates a level of trust, loyalty and open mindedness which is hard to replicate when working remotely.
It explains why companies choose to rent to office space in order to facilitate the bringing together of a community of like-minded workers. Those in the finance, law, property, communications, tech and media sectors could arguably achieve much of their productive capacity remotely. However, like humans, work is inherently social and the isolation of WFH soon takes its toll. In fact, the WFH laboratory is full of failed experiments from the likes of IBM, Yahoo, C-Trip and AT&T.
I doubt the digital innovation witnessed in the past 20 years would have been achieved without the serendipitous nature of casual workplace conversations. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google all started out working from home but as they scaled up, quickly realised they needed a physical hub to take their businesses to the next level.
There is no doubt that Microsoft Teams and Zoom have made WFH a more connected experience, and some companies are so happy they have told their staff to stay at home for good. But I feel it will not be long before they realise their future business success relies on so much more than just the tip of the iceberg.
International Strategic Sales & Marketing Director