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In Defence of the Workplace

11th May 2022
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We’ve had remote, we’re moving into hybrid, but perhaps someone needs to make the case for and defend ‘the old normal’ – namely the traditional workplace that had been the staple of so many working lives...

This isn’t about the organisational benefits of being co-located in a single place of work. This is about what else will be lost in a future where the workplace becomes a last resort. Somewhere we go when we have to in order to reap some organisational benefits of getting together, rather than because we want to. This is an appeal to the heart, rather than the head.

 

This is about what else will be lost in a future where the workplace becomes a last resort. Somewhere we go when we have to in order to reap some organisational benefits of getting together, rather than because we want to.

 

I can’t help but wonder what my 20s would have been like if that opportunity to mix and interact with workmates had been denied to me and my colleagues at the time. It’s impossible to replicate group laughter as a result of practical joke or a brilliant off the cuff comment on Zoom. At the risk of revealing too much, neither can you play an impromptu game of football using a ball ingeniously constructed of bubble wrap and masking tape. Or decide to challenge your manager to a race down King Edwards St. and prove you won by referring to the security cameras. And what will become of the world series paper toss competition taking place over lunchtime with draft 3 of the report you just discarded?

The point is that when we spend so much of our lives working - work sometimes becomes and shapes our lives.

How many of our children are the result of relationships forged at work? How many of our lasting friendships and people we relied upon during the pandemic for support were ex-colleagues who became our closest friends? Aside from business benefits, we also need to think about the role that workplaces have played in forging those connections.

Sure, we’ve probably all had our fill of workplaces that we did not want to attend for one reason or another, but I think the focus should be on removing those aspects of the workplace that seem to be a barrier for so many people rather than abandoning the concept altogether.

 

I think the focus should be on removing those aspects of the workplace that seem to be a barrier for so many people rather than abandoning the concept altogether.

 

 

I'm not suggesting there aren't huge benefits to hybrid working, but perhaps we need a slight re-think as we go from remote, to hybrid, to workplaces that are actually attractive places to be. Not just through a lick of paint or by providing comfy sofas (though physical space is obviously important), but by seeking to remove the reasons why the office can become an unattractive proposition and by creating cultures where everyone benefits from the opportunities that personal connections with our colleagues afford. From there, the organisational benefits will necessarily follow.

Let’s not write off the workplace so soon - it’s given a lot to a lot of us.

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