A healthy and respectful debate is just that…..healthy & respectful. With that being said, I work hard not to be married to my own opinions or the “scientific facts” as I know them at that moment. I don’t need to be right…I just want to be in the pursuit of the knowledge that will make me and those around me better human beings.
I learned this week that two of our Fortune 100 clients have made big decisions to require a significant percentage of their employees work from home permanently. The decisions are mostly driven by dollars and cents savings. Both companies respectively spoke about the financial impact to the bottom line throughout our Zoom meeting. They will be closing some locations and consolidating other space to flex offices.
In one respect, it is good for our business with the interior update work it will possess short term. However, I cannot help to ponder the long-term effects this could have on productivity, mental health, innovation, creativity and those company’s cultures. At Hwy 85, our current state of affairs or modus operandi seems to be fairly divided down the middle, as although I am physically in the office – I spend hours on WebEx, teams, and zoom calls with both clients and vendors.
As I pondered this latest news while watching my son’s lacrosse practice one evening, I stopped and looked at all the parents on the sidelines of their children’s baseball, softball and lacrosse practices that evening at the large park. Couldn’t help but wonder – would no real separation of work office and home life be a good thing for the majority of these Americans? I became a critical observer at some point that night and studied the crowd and what they did closely. I then watched the children and their coaches with a sharp eye too…
A large percentage of the parents sat alone in lounge chairs and bleachers not speaking to others. The overwhelming majority were head down into their phones not engaged in the practices. The gentlemen next to me was watching a Netflix series. A few chatted away with each other and talked life, but literally most couples or parents with children were not engaged in anything but their phones/devices and kept their distance from each other. One family did bring pizza and had dinner with the other kids and kept them entertained. Overall I witnessed a very sedentary, non-involved, non-energized group of people simply passing time. I point this out not to diss some tired groups of parents who are still doing their best to provide awesome opportunities for their kiddos but instead to point out the vast comparison to their adult counterparts……..the coaches.
The coaches were engaged 100% and attentive to each kid on the teams. The kids were energized, visibly hungry for more knowledge and the desire to be better players and teammates. They chatted on every break and no coaches were on their phones or devices except for one coach who was filming each kid at bat. There was real time data being shared between coaches observing and players learning and executing. There was visible problem solving, team work, positive reinforcement and emotional response. When practice was over, both the coaches and the players laughed, goofed off, cleaned the space up and cleared the field resembling proud little Energizer Bunnies.
As humans we are a highly organized, advanced species. We have complex emotions, thoughts, communication, reasoning and problem solving skills. Human beings are also technically herd animals thriving in highly coordinated groups deriving social cues, inspiration and curiosity from the behavior of those around us. Yes technology has given us some visual tools to mimic social interaction, however there is still an inherent missing piece of the puzzle, in my humble opinion, when you completely remove the more spontaneous, organic human interaction found in a more traditional office/work environment. We have joked for years about “water cooler gossip” and at times it can be a nuisance, but that getting to know your co-worker as a human being outside of their fancy title – being approached by them to buy their daughter’s girl scout cookies or working together to throw the office Christmas party – these are interactions that feed the soul, that keep the humanity in the mundane, that remind us that in the end, all business…inter-office or intra-office…is built and sustained on relationships.
I am a business owner, I get that wins to the bottomline sound enticing especially in these more difficult economic times, I challenge though that these decisions as a long term solution will have opportunity cost and thus even real bottomline costs in the end. But like I inititally proclaimed….I’m up for a healthy debate and would love to hear your thoughts!