Friday 3 July 2020 11:11 am

DEBATE: Is it time to get back to the office?

Rod Flavell is chief executive of FDM Group
and Amanda Baines
Amanda Baines is co-founder of leadership consultancy Leaders Lab

Is it time to get back to the office?

Rod Flavell, chief executive of FDM Group, says YES.

The lockdown measures were a necessary step in tackling the virus, but it’s time to get our economy moving again. 

Millions of workers have now been at home for several months, and while web conferencing has served as a reliable substitute, people are keen to get back to normal. 

Employers have been working hard to kit offices out with the latest personal protection and testing equipment, while ensuring that any staff member considered vulnerable can work from home if necessary. Speaking from personal experience, many of our employees are enjoying getting back in the action, learning everything from analytics to coding, and rebuilding our team culture.

While I fully respect the huge sacrifices made by our health service and frontline workers, it is also critical that companies can accelerate growth to protect jobs during this uncertain time. It’s obvious to all that there are financial hardships coming for our country — we must act now to stimulate growth and to lessen the impact. 

Key to this is getting back to work, creating jobs, accelerating digital skills training while following the necessary safety guidelines.

Read more: Welcome to the blended office

Amanda Baines, co-founder of leadership consultancy Leaders Lab, says NO.

In the last few months, we’ve all seen certain benefits of remote working. Staff can use commuting time to catch up on emails, you’re no longer sharing cold pizza on Friday afternoons with colleagues you don’t like, and the dinosaurs in the office have (finally) downloaded Microsoft Teams. 

The emerging academic research suggests that a remote workforce is actually a productive one too — all good reasons for not returning en masse to the office just yet.

But there’s another benefit to remote working we should also consider: it is forcing our leaders to modernise. The all-too-familiar type of manager, who delegates while walking down the corridor and thinks workplace issues can be solved over a pint, is now struggling in this new remote era.

Bosses have been forced to recalibrate. They have realised they need excellent communication skills and have had to implement proper structures to keep teams engaged. 

This evolution in leadership is overdue — and long may it continue. If we wait before returning to our physical offices, we might find they’re full of better leaders as a result.

Read more: How to be a great boss in the era of Covid-19

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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