Sep 07

Collaboration and creativity need a return to the office – albeit with a bit of flexibility.

As the government is launching a major drive to get people to return to the office, I argue that a return to the office will be good for actually doing business, as well as helping the economy recover.

When I worked for agencies and ran teams of people, I used to love the buzz, the camaraderie, being part of a team, sharing ideas and planning campaigns. When deciding to set up on my own my main concern was the lack of human contact, the office banter, sharing a problem or partaking in random chit chat about the latest Netflix series. This is what I knew I was going to miss the most – and it was.

Before Covid 19 hit, I would spend the morning in my own company at home ploughing through work, but by lunchtime, I needed to be surrounded by people. So, I used to meet up with old colleagues or friends and work from a café, a bar or a restaurant so we could bounce ideas off each other over a coffee to have some level of human interaction. And if I was working on my own, I’d still have some form of interaction with the staff there or listen intently to two people gossiping on the table opposite me.

If I wasn’t in a café, then I’d be in my client’s office, surrounded by people and planning upcoming work. Plus, my gym TRAIN also became even more important to me than just keeping fit. The human interaction, banter and giggles, set me up for a day of solitude.

Now, of course, everyone is working from home to feel safe. Cities are deserted, offices now barely used.  Although, arguably working from home is being safe from Covid, are creativity, inspiration and collaboration being safely hidden from us too?

People, by design, are sociable creatures. They need other people. Endless Zoom’s maybe one good way of moving productivity forward by they are not a replacement of an actual face to face meeting.  As a marketeer, whenever I would walk into a meeting or a pitch I could learn a lot by reading the room, less so now by reading the Zoom.

While in lockdown I was lucky enough to win an energy client. At first, we had a weekly Zoom, and this was fine for getting to know the each other, but as soon as we could, the client suggested I went over one day every week (albeit socially distanced) and I jumped at the chance. Not only has it got me out of the house, but we are much more productive, reactive and our relationship is stronger as we are having a few laughs while still cracking through work.

An office environment is where you can create and make things happen. Spur colleagues on and inspire ideas to discuss new ways of thinking or crack a problem. New employees can develop and learn from their peers. Creativity and collaboration can only really excel when people are in the same room.

Yes, sometimes you need a day to yourself to think and not having the pressure to be in the office at 9am, is nice, especially for the work-life balance.  But as they say “variety is the spice of life” and return to the office, albeit flexibly and safely, in my opinion, is much needed.  The office isn’t dead, it is merely awaiting a return.