Early in the pandemic, the CEO of high-growth tech startup Cameo announced that the company had no need for permanent office space. The company became fully “distributed,” as did many other companies. What happened next?

  • Like most companies, Cameo found that productivity initially was as good or better than when employees were in the office. But in the summer of 2021, when the world became more open, productivity per employee slipped by about a third.
  • The lack of an atmosphere of both camaraderie and competition negatively impacted sales performance. 
  • Integrating new hires used to take ninety days. In the virtual world, it took nine months.
  • It was harder to develop talent without in-person interaction. In a remote setting, most feedback is based just on results, because that’s what is easily observable. Developing talent requires meaningful feedback on behavior as well as results.

In November 2021, Cameo rented office space and brought the sales team back in. By the end of Day One, the team had made roughly four times the number of outbound contacts it had been doing weekly – in other words, a month of work in a day. Cameo has extended its lease through Q1, and maybe beyond. 

So, are the benefits of having an office worth it in the long run?

As I’ve said before, there’s no one, simple answer to the work-from-home vs. office question. Instead, here are some factors to consider:

  • What is the cost of your office space compared with the impact on productivity or other aspects of your company?
  • What is the nature of the work people are doing? Some kinds of work can be done as well or better virtually, while others benefit from in-person cooperation and connection.
  • What do your people want? Some people are sick of working at home and would love to come back to the office, while others will quit if you require them to come back in.
  • How geographically distant is your workforce? Will you need offices in many different locations?

Whatever form you ultimately pick for your team, let me reiterate my advice to make it an official work-from-home policy. Without clear directives, your people will be left to guess what’s best for their careers, and you’ll be subject to the unconscious biases that come along with different working styles. 

We’re all engaged in a massive experiment to figure out the best configuration for workplace productivity, engagement, and satisfaction. That’s both stressful and exciting. At Gail Golden Consulting we can help you figure out what makes sense for your organization – get in touch with us at ggolden@gailgoldenconsulting.com

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