Can you have a company culture if everyone works remote?

This is the question Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg author, explores with her recent article.

In her article, she cites studies of how productivity dramatically increased during the pandemic with remote work. If we think about it, maintaining corporate offices is not cheap. Companies across many industries require office space within marquee addresses which means their lease expenses can be substantial. Prior to the pandemic, offices were organized based on maximum capacity with the assumption that every employee would show up every single day. Providing office space based on maximum capacity is a much larger expense than offering a smaller space based on hot desks. Many companies exploring a hybrid work environment today no longer assume all employees will show up at their buildings every day. They assume some will and those can either just show up or they can book a hot desk via an app in advance.

Utilities, supplies, equipment, furniture, front desk attendants, janitorial services, parking expenses, security services and so much more make up the facilities costs of many companies maintaining offices.

What’s the ROI CEOs expect for this investment? You will have to ask them, but one that was often cited prior to the pandemic was to control a higher level of productivity.

The pandemic disproved that theory almost completely as productivity was shown to actually increase with a move to remote work. Even flat productivity would have been amazing considering that the pandemic thrust most companies into remote work almost overnight without much time to prepare and strategize for it.

Moving forward, we should expect that vendors will continue to offer new innovative services and products to make remote work productivity even higher. In addition, companies will now have time to actually develop better strategies, processes and systems.

The big question to CEOs then becomes: If productivity has gone up with remote work, why the push to return to the office?

The answer that appears to be coming back is a need to maintain control over the company culture.

This is new.

Culture and not productivity is now the driver behind investments in offices.

For those who have worked for larger employers with many offices before the pandemic, did you experience a different company culture from colleagues who worked at different office locations?

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