Set Mandatory In-Office Days

It’s back-to-the-office time even in Cupertino. Apple has announce that starting Sept 5, employees are required to be in the office at least three days a week. Tuesday and Thursday are mandatory in-office days.

It is a good idea. The research is piling up that fully remote working has a negative impact on people who used to work in an office. The only organizations that work well fully remote are those that were born that way.

If you are in a leadership position, you should set mandatory in-office days. A minority will complain loudly, but the majority will quietly be thankful that you set clear rules. And despite the claims of the work-from-home zealots, it does improve communication, engagement, and the bottom line.

Pick the Right Place for Each Task

Peak employee effectiveness and wellbeing depends on finding the optimal balance between working alone and working with others. Microsoft does big studies of their many thousand employees. They found that disengaged employees complained about too little collaboration. Overworked employees complained about too much collaboration.

Now that both office and home are valid work locations, it is a leadership responsibility to make the most of each of them. Collaboration needs to be in the office. We survived two years of Zoom meetings, but at the cost of massive Zoom fatigue. Focused work should happen at home where the employee is in full control of their time. Leaders need to set the rules and clearly delineate what happens where.

Work Where Others are Working

Are you as productive when working from home? Many people fell they are not, and compensate by working even more hours. The numbers show that the time we save by not having to communte to work have become extra work hours, not extra free time.

If you feel your productivity is dropping when working from home, spend part of your workday working together with someone else. I am not talking about pair programming or collaborative work – in fact, you don’t even need to know the other person. If you take your laptop to a local cafe or co-working space where other people are working, you will work harder. It is exactly the same effect as when people exercise harder in the gym than they do at home. Get out of the house for part of your work-from-home days.

You Need On-Site Time

You can work from home as long as you also put in 40 hours at the office. That’s official policy at Tesla, where Elon Musk has thrown down the gauntlet at his executives. The factory workers put in 40+ hours and their managers should, too.

There are some jobs that lend themselves well to remote working, and some that don’t. Elon has a point that managing people involves being visible, and much leadership happens outside official meetings. Nobody has figured out a way to simulate the informal encounters of the workplace in Zoom. That is why some on-site time is necessary for everyone inside the organization. We are seeing that fully remote workers never assimilate the culture of the organization, don’t feel a sense of belonging, and quit much faster than people who still have an in-person connection to the organization. People who are 100% remote should be contractors, not employees.

Why are You Working?

Are you one of the oppressed workers of the world? Even if you were not out waving red banners and calling for the workers of the world to unite, you can still use May Day to reflect on your job.

There are only so many minutes left in your life, and you are spending many of them on your job. Some people are fortunate to have a job that makes them happy. I’ve loved my work as a programmer, IT architect and now as as consultant and mentor. I have colleagues who are not as passionate about IT, but who use the money they make as fuel for their life outside work. Flying small planes is an expensive hobby, and needs a solid income.

You can choose either path. But if you’re not in your job for fun or for money, what are you doing there?