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  • Heather Polivka

The Role of The Office

In this blog series, we continue to explore considerations for the NEW, new normal emerging in the months and year ahead.

In our last post, we looked at how effective companies like Apple are at onboarding customers who purchase a new iPhone without requiring them to go to an Apple store, so how can other businesses translate that effectiveness to onboarding new employees.

We are going to continue our discussion about designing work experiences, and more specifically, the role of the office.


Pre-pandemic, many of us defined an office as a large singular physical location we all gathered to do our work, have watercooler talk, meet, give presentations, and to interact with co-workers, clients and partners. This large, singular physical location is how you onboarded, it was how you worked, how work got done, and how you connected with coworkers.

During the pandemic, that changed. If it still was a large, singular physical location …it had many less people in it. You didn’t meet in someone’s office or small conference rooms because you were staying 6 feet apart. The pandemic changed how we worked, how work got done and how we connected with coworkers and clients alike.

For many, though, “office” was a kitchen table or a home office. Productivity remained constant.....proving that the traditional office model was not as productive as everyone assumed. To consider that productivity remained constant even as people dealt with distance learning, no childcare, and an immense increase in laundry and at-home cooking! Work still got done, but how it got done evolved. People still connected with coworkers and clients, but how that happened evolved. We made it thru…. And many of our preconceived notions have been shattered.

Again, you can revert to how things worked pre-pandemic with the diminishing population of employees who are willing to return to a large, singular physical location. You can stay with the present with remote work for those whose jobs can support remote work.

In most cases, I don’t think defaulting to either the past or present is the way to go.

Here’s why: Imagine a CEO telling customers they can ONLY purchase their products or services by coming into a physical location. No doordash, no mobile app to pre-order, no online purchases. There are some businesses where this model makes sense….and a great many where it does not.

No imagine that CEO saying customers could ONLY purchase remotely? Again, this works for some business models, but not all. We saw this during the pandemic.

Instead, a CEO needs to look at what makes sense of their business and their customer. What makes them competitive versus what creates competitive advantage? The same is true when we think about an office and employees.

Instead of defaulting to an answer, I am working with clients to question and explore:

  • What IS an office?

  • What purpose does an office serve?

  • How does our definition of office serve our business? Serve our customers?

  • Is an office even a physical space anymore or is it certain hours or is it something else entirely? If it is a space, is it A place? Is it several smaller places or is it many places?

These are interesting and compelling questions that, if explored, allows each business to create an answer that works specifically for their business, customers, and talent needs. These answers not only position a business to recover in 2021, but to design its experience for the future. How exciting!

Talent has new ideals and requirements that have emerged from what they have learned from the past and the present. A vast majority of people who could work from home have no interest in returning full time to an office. Does that mean losing some of your best people? Or that you continue to limit your business, your team and your performance by the talent that fits a certain geographical area?

One of the things I see with clients is a tendency to stick with what they know, the status quo. It can be hard for anyone to bring up a new, different way of thinking, particularly inside the business. Many clients need an outside point of view with a broader perspective to rattle loose the status quo and agreement to start to exploring something new, something different, something that helps their people thrive and their business thrive for the future.

Join us in future weekly blog editions as we explore technology, the evolution of what it means to manage, and more!

Interested in exploring what’s next for your organization? Schedule a no-obligation 30-minute strategy call with Heather by clicking here.

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