There’s no point in sugarcoating it — the job market right now is a shit show. People are fleeing jobs, employers are desperate, and offices are empty. It’s a circus out there. The COVID pandemic gave all companies — both large and small — the opportunity to recalibrate, but it’s as if the dial is now altogether broken. Not surprisingly, many are choosing the comforts of home, stretchy clothes, and technology over heading back to the office. It’s a problem, and there’s a simple solution: Get back to work.
From an evolutionary perspective, we are built to work. How much we contribute to the tribe may be the difference between having a longstanding place within it or getting the boot. We want to add value and feel valued. No matter how evolved we are, this human need will always remain. Our brains are also happier when they are creating, producing, and being challenged. No, we weren’t meant to sit at a desk for eight hours a day, but we aren’t meant to sit on the couch either. Sitting on the couch may feel more comfortable than heading into work and getting behind the desk, but there are massive benefits to working at the office.
Where Are We Most Productive?
There was a lot of hype in 2020 — and still is today — about the productivity gains when working from home. Many believed that it was the key to getting more done, to improved efficiency. A shorter work day is a more productive one, some said. WRONG. All wrong. Don’t believe me? Consider this: Lots of organizations reported an increase in productivity early on in the pandemic when people were sent home and office doors were locked. Why? Was it because they were working from home or because they were terrified of losing their jobs? I choose the latter.
Many were up against a wall with the threat of unemployment looming over them. They had no choice but to buckle down and get shit done. Many employers reported that productivity actually decreased as the lockdown went on, which tells me that, for many, working from home became more and more difficult. Kids screaming in the background and the uncertainty of the pandemic made it tough for people to focus, which feels like all the more reason to come back together as a tribe and work together in person.
Those in support of the work-from-home model also forget that productivity is all about how much gets done within a certain time frame. Lots of workers reported that, during the pandemic, they were working more hours at home than they had been working at the office. Whether that is a boundary issue or a rise in responsibility, the increase in hours allowed for more to get done. It wasn’t that individuals were actually more productive, but that they had more time from start to finish. They could sit in their beds at 10 p.m. and finish off that project that was due the next day.
What Do We Lose When We Work From Home?
When you work from home, you lose the positive social pressure that you experience from seeing others hard at work. When you’re at home working and only have your dog by your side, you can convince yourself that others are probably delayed in their work or watching Netflix, too. You don’t get the same motivation from watching others with their head down and grinding. It’s a powerful thing to open the office doors and see your team crushing it at 8:30 a.m. That positive social pressure can absolutely kick your own productivity into high gear.
We are social creatures who are meant to be among one another and working together. In a job where teamwork is key (any job at Spartan) being in person allows you to confront issues head on, problem solve in real time, and tune in to teammates that may disagree with your strategies. We hide behind technology when we work from home. We can turn our camera off or call into a meeting and lose out on all the amazing non-verbal cues that we get from facial expressions.
I know that the pandemic has given us an opportunity to reevaluate what matters, prioritize our health, and tune into parenting efforts in a more intentional way. It’s also given everyone a chance to ask: Is this really what I want to be doing with my life? But for goodness sake, answer the damn question and get back to work.
Head into the office. Return to the tribe and add value. We have the chance to rise above and beyond the destructive impact of the pandemic, not cave to the comforts of being at home and become more glued to our kitchen table. You’re a Spartan — do better, work harder.