Yesterday, when I was on a con call with some of my clients, we faced some disturbances that made the call difficult and even awkward at times. There were pressure cooker whistles, internet disruptions, as well as doorbells ringing in the background, while we discussed some life-altering design ideas.
Now, given the situation we are in, it is okay to face such problems. The more important thing is, we are still going strong in the face of struggling times. But this led me to think deeply about the importance of going to the office. Most leading companies have called for work from home policy due to the pandemic. And, of course, it is the need of the hour. But when I face questions about the existence of office, I wonder if it is at all possible to work from home forever. For some professions, it is still believable; however, for others, it is only theoretically feasible to talk about getting the work done from home. I know this because I have seen the jeopardy that our project managers have faced during lockdown times. It was difficult for me to see it as a leader because I could see how they were putting efforts into meeting the ends. I could see how each one of them was adding more hours, more activeness to make things possible. In fact, people were working almost 4-5 hours more than office hours and yet, unfortunately, for some professions, working from home wasn’t just possible.
Being associated with an industry that runs on the very existence of workplaces, it became quite a difficult circumstance to read and hear about stories of offices shutting down permanently. But I can vouch for it that workplaces are going to exist as long as people are working. Offices aren’t just some buildings where people arrive at a scheduled time and do the work; these are the very places where ideas are conceived, discussed and materialized. I have seen our designers work in a completely different zone when they are working in a group. There are ideas from every mind, there are constructive criticisms, and there are faster solutions. Now, all we could do is work from our own ends and collaborate and discuss ideas over Zoom calls.
Honestly, that just doesn’t work for mainstream collaborative practices. Yes, virtual collaboration is a medium to connect with teams around the world, and they are convenient. Still, working in the same room on the same project with colleagues will always have its own perks.
Work from home ignores home-time
Another emerging issue with continuous work from home is that it has fractured the work-life balance. Earlier, coming back from the office somehow meant the end of the day. But, working from home became a limitless work-time. It is strange that while at home, we don’t even feel the overtime. Now, this may sound productive to some but, in its true sense, it’s making us ignore the home time and will impact our health in the future.
It’s not the first time companies tried going remote. I remember IBM taking a major decision in 2009  when about 40 percent of its employees were working remotely. The plan failed, and the company had to call back thousands of their remote working employees because of the company’s degrading revenue.
Going to remote working sounds very optimistic, but in reality, industries wouldn’t be able to survive without employees working from enabled places. Going back to the office is also important for the efficiency of work. After years of studies and research, there are ergonomists, designers, and architects putting their best ideas to make offices functional and people-centric. There are workplace design applications that have shown how productivity, efficiency and most importantly, the health of working people can be improved. Leaving all these behind and getting rid of those highly utilitarian workspaces would be like going back ignoring decades of learning and education.
So yes, we will have to get back to the office when the time comes. And that is quite possible too. We at Zyeta are constantly working towards finding newer and safer ways to make people return to their offices. From versatile spatial planning to reformed HVAC systems to using sustainable materials; our designers are researching every inch of workplace design to re-create and re-establish offices as reliable and healthy. The thing is, the pandemic may get over with the production of vaccines, but our fear of health safety will stay for a longer time. And that would be a positive aspect too because now, when we go back to resume our ‘normal’, we will have to be double sure about several things.
And just like the other times, when the world got back on its foot after catastrophes, we will get over this too! And we will go back to the office soon.