Beyond Your Zoom Connection

The Office: 2021

While the media seem to have found a new norm -- a little politics, a little business and lifestyle and a little COVID, it offers us a chance to begin to think Beyond COVID. That doesn’t mean letting down our guard, but rather thinking about 2021. What will your office experience look like. Yes, the tech barons have stepped out front to disrupt the workplace with permanent virtuality, but I wonder if that was a bit premature. One, is that even what people want. As workers have settled into the comfort of their home workspace, have they done so thinking this is the future … forever.

Is there an unforeseen epiphany that’s about to break among the remote workforce, the subtle or crashing transition from “no commute honeymoon” to “cabin fever.” Just for perspective, Cabin fever refers to the distressing claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended period of time.

When we launched Trevelino/Keller 17 years ago, we were intent on the importance of being on site with the flexibility to start and finish your day based on personal nuances. Interaction and real-time accessibility was critical however. We reopened the office June 1, certainly earlier than most. But we did it with a genuine voluntary option. As a result, we average about 30% attendance per week in a workspace designed for social distancing, coupled with a mask requirement when away from workspaces.

In the months prior to re-opening and since re-opening, we have come to two conclusions. Like many companies, we can successfully work remotely, leveraging the range of tech platforms and tools – Zoom, Slack and Trello, most specifically. The second conclusion, we don’t need an epiphany to know how important in-person connectivity is to a culture and an individual’s overall happiness.

A read into Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones exposes us to some historical data about the important of staying connected to community. Buettner travels to the five Blue Zones in the world to discover beyond the commonality of diet and movement, is connection to community. These three elements define Blue Zones which is where the highest percentage of centurions live actively, not just live. We would argue there’s no greater community than the workplace, that single environment where we spend as much as 40% of our lives.

Before we get to 2020, companies will need to figure out 2021. Will they remain virtual. Will they ignore what they learned in 2020 and return to the status quo. Or will they find balance. We recently announced our plans for 2021 or when we believe the current pandemic is no longer considered a threat. We will move to a 60/40, office/remote model. It’s a departure from our previous philosophy, but as Einstein tells us, “ The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

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