Each morning I spend around two hours preparing for my workday.
After waking up each day around 5 a.m., meditating and spending about an hour working at home, I proceed to shower, get dressed, make lunch for my fiancé and I, make and eat breakfast and, finally, head out the door to commute to work.
The commute typically lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the reliability of Chicago’s public transportation that day.
In all, by the time the week is over, I’ve spent about 10 hours preparing to work. Not working — preparing to work. Add in the 45 minutes to an hour it takes to commute back home, and it’s about 15 hours per week. That’s about 60 hours a month, or 720 hours a year — assuming I only work 48 weeks out of the year because of holiday and vacation time.
And what do I do once I’m at the office, at my desk and “working”? I sit down, log into my plethora of cloud-based applications I use to do my job and communicate with various stakeholders, occasionally have meetings and spontaneous conversations with co-workers, eat lunch, exercise at our building’s gym, work more in the afternoon, and then head home in the evening.
Sure, there are times when I’m doing face-to-face business with people in and outside Talent Economy’s office — but, mostly, I’m sitting at a laptop doing my work. Many of today’s workers probably have a different work arrangement than I do; but, for the most part, I imagine the core of the work people are doing involves being at a computer using cloud-based platforms.
Certainly, worker complaints about time spent commuting to and from work aren’t a new phenomenon. And, besides, that’s not my intention here. A lot of companies have gotten better about allowing employees to work from home, remotely or with flexibility in when they’re in the office. These are good things.
My point in writing this column today is to say that, given how fast cloud-based technologies are taking over the world of work, it’s become ever more clear that the need for a physical, central company office space is diminishing at an alarming rate. For some companies, even having an office to begin with sounds ridiculous.
Still, for a lot of firms, there is good reason to have a central location for employees to gather and interact. The point is: Companies all of types need to a take a long, hard look at how they use their corporate headquarters (if they haven’t already), if it’s right for them and how they can maximize their in-office policy to ensure that workers are performing their best and feeling satisfied.
So how can executives tell what’s right for their firms?
First, I’d argue they should consider looking at the nature of the work. If most of their employees are quietly plugged into the cloud doing work from a laptop, then that employee, by nature, has a lot more flexibility in when and where they can do their work. Executives, therefore, should recognize this and allow those employees to manage when they’re working at the office. So long as they’re producing results, it shouldn’t matter when they’re working but rather what they’re producing. However, companies whose work is dependent on constant in-person employee-to-employee interaction might consider more of a core-hours approach, in which employees are required to be in the office during certain times but are able to enjoy flexibility outside of those hours.
Second, look at the role face-to-face interaction plays in your firm. If, for instance, your firm is an advertising agency that finds great value in having a central, creative corporate headquarters for employees to engage in spontaneous conversation that may result in leads for campaigns, then allowing total remote work isn’t a good option. On the other hand, a web development firm made up of programmers locked in to their coding tasks and communicating through messaging platforms like Slack may not need face-to-face interaction.
Third, examine your firm’s culture and the role physical space and face-to-face interaction play in it. If your company is struggling to define and maintain a positive corporate culture, than having employees in a corporate headquarters may be better than allowing them to interact from a distance. However, if a company does have a solidly defined and positive culture, allowing employees the freedom to choose when they’re in the office may add to the company’s collective productivity.
The bottom line is that, as technology continues to improve at a clip that is harder and harder for us to keep up with, companies risk holding onto legacy customs that are simply too expensive and unnecessary to maintain. As a lot of firms are finding these days, the idea of the corporate office is one of those things on the chopping block.
Finding out the role having a corporate headquarters plays in the nature of your employees’ work, how they interact with one another and the firm’s overall culture is the first step executives can take when evaluating if maintaining an office in the traditional sense is right for them. Or maybe there’s a more modern and productive adaptation of office use and in-office expectation.
For us at Talent Economy, we still find that face-to-face interaction is important when launching a young media brand. So, until further notice, my morning routine remains rote.
Frank Kalman is Talent Economy’s Managing Editor.