It is instinctive. Aware or not, somehow, we know it is good for us. As humans, we are hard-wired for survival. The fight or flight response, but survival isn’t just under reactive circumstances. It is also our natural inclination and gravitation to what innately serves us best. Some might call it intuition. I believe it is more attuned to human self-preservation. There is an argument to say we have already started this journey. The default gift of the pandemic permitting time away from
om the unrelenting work hustle also brought us precious time with family and life’s other priorities. We were due this and quickly held onto our rights and freedom. We relished, treasured, and now guard it fiercely. We know instinctively this newfound liberalism is better for us. Preserving what indelibly remains a priority whilst satisfying the exigency for social interactions, with the other humans in our life; is the new work-life balance, push and pull. Social interaction It is well established; humans need social interaction. It is also conventional wisdom; the physical presence of others provides warmth and a sense of belonging. It is easy to get lost in our own world with all due respect for the love of solitude (introverts), but even office gossip has its healthy side! Social interaction is essential to every aspect of our health, fostering emotional and physical well-being. A workplace environment with real, not virtual, relationships and interplay provides this. Even during the lockdowns, our instincts for human interaction kicked in. Zoom share prices soared from $124.51 in March 2020 to $559 in October 2020. We all used it; work, family and friends. But for genuine human connectivity, video conferencing just doesn’t cut it. It cannot replace full body language exchange, a physical presence, human energy, or touch. It is hard to maintain working relationships to the same degree. Sharing worries and joys online is not the same as capturing spontaneous moments, looking into someone’s eyes and knowing they need our attention or simply to be acknowledged. That is why we are migrating back to the office. Job satisfaction and purpose One-third of our life is spent working. That is without the workload creep of blending and the ‘help’ of technology to be available ‘anytime’. With jobs taking up such a monumental piece of our life and linked intrinsically to the well-being of every other aspect, family, finances etc., job satisfaction is a lifeline. Spending time with colleagues in the office reinforces the sharing of a common mission and increases work satisfaction. Referred to as goal contagion, by observing the actions of others, we often adopt the same goals, and when connected to the organisation’s mission overall work satisfaction improves. Believing in the purpose of our work reflects deeply in the psyche that our job is a vocation or calling and not just a paycheque. Performance and our skills There are numerous studies vouching for productivity improvements when working remotely, as there are to counter the theory. Regardless, productivity improvements, not to be confused with performance, mostly benefit the company. In contrast, performance and skills improvement are mutually beneficial and empower you. Good collaborative relationships decrease work frustration, making it easier to ask for help and to learn new tasks. This cannot be underestimated with the onboarding of new starters. And for established employees, it is not just about being seen and heard but continual learning. It’s harder for institutional knowledge to make its way around in a remote environment. A lot of information sharing happens through short, informal conversations over the course of a typical workday. And those moments of serendipity? Bumping into a colleague while thinking about a problem, asking for their input, and it leads to a new and surprising solution. The shared physical space is the perfect conduit. Ahead of the UK winter, research already indicates 85 per cent view working in the office as more appealing due to the rise in energy prices. Whilst not entirely innate and more deliberate, as human beings, self-preservation is inbuilt. So, let’s not confuse the temporary abnormality of our social dislocation with a new normal. Working in the physical presence of other humans is good for us, and we know it. Call it an office, a base; it doesn’t matter. To save us from regression, we all need it. The freedom we acquired, whether hybrid or flexible working, is here to stay, but the return to physical shared working space is occurring. After all, that has happened since the pandemic- what the world needs more is a human touch. The noise, the chatter, the occasional arguments, bursts of laughter, and even the shared tears connect us to our basic needs and the world around us.