Where was that office again?
It is understandable that employees want greater flexibility after a number of years working mainly from home. Working from home undoubtedly has advantages in terms of flexibility in everyday life and, not least, in the shortest of journeys to work. Moreover, some employees have discovered that working in open landscapes, for example, may have had a higher price than expected. Many people probably find it easier to maintain focus and concentration when working from home.
Managers, on the other hand, are faced with a different problem. After all, it is their responsibility to ensure that the company work culture is functioning well and that people feel a sense of belonging to their workplace. While there is probably no getting away from the fact that some managers may also want more insight and an overview of what employees spend their days doing, the work culture in the Nordic countries is largely characterized by management trust in their employees. So if managers actually do trust that their employees are not ‘bunking off’, it must be culture building and belonging that comprise the motivation for wanting to ‘reinstate’ the office.
Thus we are left with two conflicting desires that cannot automatically be solved at the same time. Managers want to build teams while employees want flexibility. In today's labour market, it is easy to think that managers should simply comply with the wishes of employees as there are plenty of vacancies and low unemployment. But why did we have an office in the first place? Wasn't it to have a workplace to go to? And to create separation between work and leisure?
Whatever the recent past, it is important to remember that culture building is not a pretentious workshop word but a real motivation for many of today's employees. Younger employees in particular say that a positive culture is one of the main motivations for staying in a job. Perhaps, then, it is time for a shift in perspective on the part of employees, that more people see themselves as bearers of the corporate culture because we need to build a solid team.
For managers, it may be a good opportunity to ask why employees want to work from home, and whether the office can meet some of these wishes? Is there a need for more quiet zones, better air, light, coffee and colour? Perhaps it may be possible to offer more flexibility in return for an agreement on office days?
We don't just do our job, we also build our workplace. Culture is in perpetual development, not static, so it’s important that all employees and managers recognise their role in contributing to building a sound culture.
It’s actually quite important that companies prioritise talking about these things as having a dialogue can save both managers and employees from a whole bunch of conflict. Culture arises in one of two ways: either it is created by a series of coincidences, or it is designed with knowledge and will. Every company is different, and every company culture is different. We at Huma are passionate about this issue and would like to help you create the type of culture that suits you! If there is anything we can help with, then by all means let us know! In the meantime, you can read more about the topic here: Do you have to bring your whole self to work?