In a hilarious read in the Australian Financial Review, a propaganda piece disguised as an article on remote work and office perks has been published titled WFH raises the bar for offices.
I meant to post this last year, so this has been sitting in my drafts. But I found it so comical and biased that I felt compelled to write about it.
Mirvac, a large Australian property developer with a vested interest in getting people back into the office (because it also owns commercial real estate), has set up a trial space for clients and architectural firms. But, showing just how out of touch they are, a paragraph in the linked story reads.
“There are pot plants and whiteboards on wheels. Desks that can roll around. Power points that hang from the ceiling. Telephone boxes that bring back memories of Dr Who. Foam blocks that can be stacked like Lego.”
Is this what employees want? Do they want pot plants and whiteboards on wheels? Offices have had these things since the eighties. When choosing an employer, whiteboard on wheels isn’t high on my wishlist of perks.
In other articles disguised as independent think-pieces but really being funded by the commercial real estate lobby, allegedly, according to the AFR, some companies are trading up to try and lure people back into the office.
I am not convinced.
While I have no desire to go back into the office, I did ask myself the question; what would it take for me to go back into the office?
In my case, nothing.
Unlike other up-and-coming workers who have never set foot into an office, I’ve experienced what it is like on the other side.
I’ve worked in open-plan offices as well as more traditional room-based offices. I then worked hybrid for a few years before the pandemic forced the hand of employers, and everyone for a moment in time (those that could) worked remotely.
I was fortunate to land a remote job before the pandemic. Not having to sit in peak hour traffic and speed up the date of my next car service was amazing. Being home for packages, getting to help my wife with my two young kids so she can shower or go to the shop by herself, even better.
Remote work was an eye-opening experience. For some, it was a negative and positive one for many. For some people, the cat was out of the bag.
Despite how well it worked during the pandemic, some companies are swinging the pendulum the other way. It seems strange to me as the threat of recession looms that companies don’t see the savings of office space and equipment as a good thing.
For me the answer is Nothing also.
The thing is, it has nothing to do with the office itself. It has everything to do with the 90-120 minutes per day commuting, cost of petrol or public transport (I drive), car costs, a small consideration to environmental impact, and more time I get to spend with family versus travelling. Plants, whiteboards, etc, do nothing to fix these things.
Was already heavily doing WFH pre pandemic, and our team delivered an entire project all whilst doing WFH, which proved to our skeptical management that it would work out fine.
The one thing an office is good for is face-to-face collaboration and maintaining connections with people. I notice it more with people I only have passing contact with, people you’d stop and say hello to when passing them in the hallway or something, but don’t work with directly. I don’t really find opportunities to speak to these people, and it feels a little awkward to call them up just to say hello.