During the pandemic, we learned a couple things about us as a society and as members of the corporate world: First, we can work remotely. In other words, it works to have our home offices all neatly set up and be productive there. Second, we are still humans which means we are social beings. We want to mix with others and a virtual interaction – even though functional – doesn’t replace the real-life magic of being in the same room together. Third, we have this succinct need to belong somewhere. If any company wants to foster a productive and empowering culture, this becomes increasingly difficult if there is no actual place to which to belong. That’s why companies ache for people to get back. Let’s dive into the key components that make such an initiative work.
1. Know your reasons
People get confused why they promote a back to the office initiative. There is a wide range of perspectives: “We have to see (and therefore monitor) our people to actually see that they are working” That is one end of the spectrum. “We need to make sure that we get our money’s worth the hours we pay.” This reason comes close to the one before. “We just want to have fun and hang out together with the team.” That’s the other end of the spectrum. Depending on the leadership style – whether it’s authoritarian or a laissez-faire approach, the “whys” vary.
The ultimate reason must be this: the human factor. We are all humans. We are social beings. We all want to belong. One of our basic needs is to be with other people. Let’s use this as an opportunity.
2. Business success requires culture development
Organizations don’t make purchasing decisions, people do. As Earl Nightingale pointed out in the 60s and 70s, every dollar we’re going to earn will come from another human being who perceives value in what we offer. We are seeing exciting results in the development of artificial intelligence. But in terms of letting AI buy things and call the shots, we still trust the human factor, and Earl remains right. If we as businesses want to be successful, which means by definition that we innovate products or services and sell them on the marketplace, we need to make sure that our customers as humans are our focus.
The best way to do that is to be a group that works together to serve the company and therefore the customer base. This, at the core, is the very basis of organization. Technology allows us to bridge the distance between offices and people. But that’s just the thing. It merely compensates for the lack of presence. It does so reasonably well but there comes a point in the development of any organization that requires them to go beyond that.
In short, to succeed any business that wants to survive and thrive in modern times, the corporate culture is the solid foundation from which it can plan and execute strategies. As Peter Drucker said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Developing an empowering, high-performance corporate culture ultimately needs people to come together.
3. Realizing learning potential and unleashing creativity
There are many ways in which organizations can learn. One of the best ways for your team to develop their skills is by observing best practices and examples from skillful workers. As Esther Hicks points out, words don’t teach, it’s life experience that teaches. A back to office initiative works, if people realize that they have a real opportunity to upgrade their skills.
One step beyond, the essence of innovation lies not just in solitary brainstorming but in the sparks that fly when minds meet. When people come together in a shared space, the energy is palpable, and creativity flows more freely. In creative and knowledge-based work environments, it allows for spontaneous discussions, whiteboard sessions, and the kind of dynamic interaction that digital platforms can't fully replicate. Encouraging such collaboration can lead to breakthroughs that push the company forward in unexpected and exciting ways.
Bonus: Strengthening Corporate Identity and Unity
Bringing employees back to the office isn't just about filling seats; it's about reaffirming their sense of belonging and reinforcing the corporate identity. A strong, visible culture within the office walls acts as a constant reminder of the values, goals, and ethos of the organization. It's this sense of unity and shared purpose that can transform a group of individuals into a cohesive team, driven to achieve collective goals. By focusing on creating a welcoming and inclusive office environment, companies can ensure that the return to the office builds a stronger, more connected workforce, ready to face the challenges of tomorrow together.
About the Author
Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A., founder of MB INSPIRATIONS, is leading expert on strategic thinking, communication, and leadership. Since 2013, Marc assists companies, organisations, and individuals worldwide to achieve their objectives, increase their performance, and realize their untapped potential. Marc has helped thousands of people in consulting and training projects. Currently, he lives in Stuttgart, Germany.