A few weeks ago, The founder of Zoom reached out to an audience of Australian investors to say that the traditional model of being in the office five days a week “is”.probably never again‘. Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, also stated that the large percentage of Millennials and Gen Z workforce “need flexibility”; Coining a hybrid working model as the “future”.
It’s not just millennials and Gen Z who need flexibility – everyone does. But separating work and the physical workplace is not a solution.
When you have a superstar team, it’s important to have a workspace that supports both the individual team member and the collective brain. People spend most of their days at work, and the space they spend their time in can have a huge impact on their mental and physical health. Creating the ideal workplace is an investment in your team.
Remote working was a necessary evil during lockdown restrictions, but it’s no match for the magic that happens in a room when your team is together. When you’re leading a well-functioning team, a physical common room gives you optimal performance.
Looking ahead to a post-pandemic future, many companies are considering bringing everyone back to the office, moving to remote working, or developing a mix of both, with most choosing a hybrid option along the spectrum. That’s why I believe that the workplace of the future will be in the office.
Virtual fatigue is burnout in shape
Not long after the lockdown began, we all began to realize that video conferencing just wasn’t enough. Google, WeWork and Microsoft have tried to solve “zoom fatigue” with holograms.
It is well known that those who do not allow themselves time to relax or are tired simply lack the energy to be creative. Have you ever been to a minimal sleep meeting and your brain isn’t quite following the comments? Whether or not you slept well, zoom fatigue – also known as virtual fatigue – isn’t just a term we used to refer to the boredom of our own faces. It has been scientifically proven that conducting and participating in virtual meetings is more strenuous.
Virtual exhaustion has similar effects as exhaustion and burnout due to the increased cognitive demands of video conferencing communication. While virtual hangouts have been useful for people long distances or with health problems, like most good things – it comes at a price.
Key signs of virtual exhaustion, as well as burnout, include forgetfulness, difficulty maintaining relationships and attendance at meetings, employee frustration and irritability, and even physical problems such as back pain, muscle aches, tension headaches, and insomnia.
It turns out the answer might very well be staring us in the face. “Idea sex,” first coined by business writer Matt Ridley, is when ideas have the opportunity to mix freely and become more than their constituent parts. This requires a good relationship within a positive team culture and the ability to be spontaneous. The best way to encourage this is to get people into a room with ideas. You can try to imitate this on chat channels, but the chemistry is not the same.
Even if you do your best to replicate office culture in a virtual environment, from daily hangouts, chats, and video meetings to Friday drinks with a company-wide video chat, it’s never quite the same.
Personal offices offer far more opportunities for conversation, collaboration, and partying on a more frequent, organic level that remote working conditions cannot capture. Collaboration can take place when team members are at their desks, but more often it finds or develops in our break and rest areas. Belonging, empathy for colleagues, and connections take to a whole new level when you can see body language and share a physical space.
Just like going to a stadium to watch a game or watching it on TV at home, the atmosphere cannot be recreated virtually. Sharing mishaps, taking risks, trying new things, and learning from experimentation are hard to achieve if you are unable to casually distract ideas from others or solicit and receive quick verbal feedback.
I am a firm believer in deep work, a time when you should be able to switch off from all distractions; Phones, emails, notifications and focus all your energies on deeper creative or strategic work that makes a measurable difference to business.
It is almost impossible to do deep work successfully at home. With more distractions at home like kids, housework, and watching TV, a 30-minute session of deep work in an office can be the equivalent of two to three hours at home.
In short, an office space is an investment in your company’s collective brain and should never be taken for granted. If your team enjoys coming to work, it will smash it.