Is The Office Gone For Good?

Author:
Light Silver
12 min read

‍Is the office gone for good? No. And yes. We talk about the future of the office and how the pandemic has changed the landscape of remote work long into the future, as well as some implications for the future of your business. Show of hands: Who reading this has worked remotely in the last two years? Trick question. We pretty much know you have.

Over a third of workers switched to some sort of remote or “teleworking” model in2020, but that number grows higher across income and education lines. And we know that different industries and job roles were impacted differently. Someone working on-site at a construction company has a very different job than someone working in HR at the very same company.

So, there’s a pretty good chance that if you’ve found your way to our cozy corner of the internet, you work on a team that has had to sit through a Zoom meeting or two.

Over the past two years on (a number that’s still hard to wrap our heads around, TBH), we’ve seen article after article about this exodus from the office. So, with all these people leaving their offices—what happens next?

Is the office gone for good?

 No. And yes. It’s complicated!

The pandemic is changing the way nearly everyone thinks about what makes a good team great—and how our login locations factor into the equation. So, in our ongoing mission to help teams better manage their work and connect with each other, we thought we’d take a stab at answering this question.

Because the answer doesn’t just impact where your team sets up their desks. It may affect how they set up their desktops, too.

How the Pandemic Changed Work

Before the pandemic, remote work was pretty much just a perk for the higher-ups. You were a lot more likely to see a video call with, say, the SVP of Marketing than you were with the Digital Marketing Coordinator. Distributed and hybrid teams were increasing slowly, but they weren’t yet common by any stretch—more of a fun hiring draw for young startups and tech companies.

But the pandemic has sped up the migration of teams away from the office to these remote and hybrid models. No longer is remote work a perk for the SVP. Now it can be a must-have for a coordinator starting out their career. And all thanks to two major shifts that have occurred since March 2020.

We’ve shattered the myth that remote work kills teams

For most teams in Q1 and Q2 of 2020, the switch to fully remote work was a swift one. Some companies attempted to dip their toes in at first, local lockdowns made slower, staggered transitions mostly impossible. But over the next several months, the early workflow hiccups subsided and remote work became the norm.

Since then, wave after wave of the pandemic has pushed back the return-to-office plans for many companies. What was expected to be a few weeks became a few months, which became January 2021, then May 2021, followed by November 2021 or January 2022. Some teams have come back to the office, only to be sent home weeks later.

In that time, teams have had plenty of time to get acclimated to remote work—and many of them are thriving! Meanwhile, employers have had plenty of time to consider the benefits of offering hybrid and remote work options and downsizing on office space. And the benefits are there: Imagine saving $2 million a year on a second floor of your office just by instituting a remote work option.

The pandemic shattered the myth that remote work kills teams. And many companies have started to realize that pretending it does might hurt the bottom line.

Workers are rethinking their relationships with their work—and the office

As much as the pandemic has changed team and org-wide thinking, the bigger shift has been on a personal level.

Let’s be honest. The last couple of years have been scary. Many found themselves rethinking what really matters to them—and whether their 9-to-5 conflicted with it.

The result: “The Great Resignation.” Over the last couple of years, millions of workers have determined for themselves that their work wasn’t working for them. Maybe they’d let their career get off track somewhere, or they decided life was too short and it was finally time to start their dream business.

And many people simply realized that they didn’t want to give up the flexibility that remote work provides—the option to care for a sick baby or walk their dog on an afternoon break. So when a company-wide survey asked them what they wanted, they spoke up! When management put the kibosh on a remote option, they decided to move elsewhere.

Workers are rethinking their relationships with the office—and many realized they enjoyed at least a little remote time.

The Pandemic and the Future of Work

So 2020 and 2021 brought major changes relating to the role of the office in work, on an organizational level and on a personal level:

Organizational: Teams realized they could succeed remotely, and companies realized there was money to be saved by distributing some of their high-performing teams.

Personal: Workers rethought their relationship to work and the office, driving a demand for hybrid, work-from-home, and remote roles.

Put these together, and you can see where we’re heading in the future of work. The last two years have helped just about everyone decouple the idea of a successful team from a fixed, in-person model.

Don’t get us wrong. We think there’s plenty of good that comes from getting a team in the same place to talk strategy, solve problems, bond, and connect with the team’s core mission and goals.

But it’s not the only way. Success can look like a lot of things to a lot of people—and if a team can combat burnout and support everyone to do their best work, then does it really matter if teammates are sitting with a city in between them instead of just a desk?

Helping Your Team Thrive in a Remote World

So is the office gone for good? Of course not. But it’s not ever going to be the same again.

Our increasingly remote world holds an opportunity—and a responsibility. Because although you can manage a successful team without an office, you can’t manage it successfully in the exact way you would within one.

As more and more teams lean towards remote and hybrid models, they require tailored solutions to streamline their work. That means less complication, fewer add-ons, and a return to simplicity that keeps everyone on the same page, even if they aren’t under the same roof.

You’re already spending your precious time letting Donna know her mic is off. Again. Do you really need to spend more of it downloading a file from your email and uploading it to your project management software, switching to email to check your afternoon meetings, then switching yet again to your HR app to put in a vacation request?

No, you don’t.

When distributed work gets more complicated, the best way to bring your team together is by simplifying and streamlining the work itself. That’s how Ledger came to be.

Rather than stacking add-on after add-on on top of app after app, the founder of a financial firm realized that to manage their team best, they needed to get rid of all the unnecessary logins. The result was a single app that would rocket the team to new heights. (It’s a seriously cool origin story—check it out!) And Ledger kept that same team soaring throughout 2020 and 2021, no matter where they logged in.

The office isn’t gone for good, but it’s more complicated than ever before. Supporting your team through the changes means understanding that remote work gets complicated sometimes, and recognizing the best solutions are often the simplest.

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