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My first stint WFH full-time was back in 2009. I had moved to Brisbane from Sydney to set-up a little tech business, with the view to eventually establish a team and office. To get started though, I set up in my newly rented apartment. Common now, but a novelty at the time.

I had a blue cable stretching from the modem in the living room through to the second bedroom. I was wearing shorts under my long-sleeve button ups before it was standard WFH attire. Although he didn’t know it, my best work buddy was the barista at the coffee shop downstairs from home. 

After 12 months of working just meters from my bedroom I realised that I had slipped into the trap of long hours and never really switching off, the opposite of what a 25-year-old living in a new city should be doing. So, I pulled the plug and took a job in the CBD, with people who actually reciprocated my desire for social interaction and friendship, unlike my local barista.

Fast-forward 12 years and today, like many of us now, I’m no stranger to the perks and the challenges of working from home. 

Although in contrast to my first experience the perks are much clearer this time around. On a personal level this is partly because I have a family; I’m home when the kids barge in the door from school, we can sit at the table and enjoy dinner together, I can take our four-legged friend for a walk while I wind down and listen to a podcast. These simple pleasures, only a couple of years prior, were rarer than I’d like to admit.

On a professional level I have time and space to focus, which can be challenging in an era of open planned offices. I am more productive with less distractions and a diary not as full of unnecessary meetings. 

Employee experience pundits and ‘the great resignation’ all indicate people will take back control and work on their terms, not that of their employer. Which, for the most part is great. But, like most things in life, the easy choice is not always the best choice and sometimes we don’t quite know what we need.

Working from home is great, just like a melted cheese sandwich is great on a cold winter’s day. It’s easy, it’s comforting, but day-in-day-out, it’s not really that healthy. 

I saw a great talk by social researcher Hugh Mackay a few years ago as part of his book launch for the title ‘Australia Reimagined’. If you get a chance, check out some of Hugh’s work, no matter your vocation, his thinking will apply.

During this presentation Hugh talked about loneliness and how we’re unintentionally structuring our lives around it; societal shifts such as having fewer children, increasing shopping online, through to building big brick fences around our homes. At first glance you could dismiss it as generational differences, but it’s not the case. While we might be more connected digitally, we far more disconnected physically. And when you consider most communication is physical, not expressed, we’re far less engaged with one another and more engaged with ourselves. This insight was before the pandemic that has undoubtably only driven these societal shifts to new peaks.

The general consensus now is that, where possible, we should all work hybrid i.e. a day or two from home and a few days in the office. That makes sense. Gain back a little physical connectedness. Life’s about balance and that’s a balanced approach.  

I’ve had a few of friends and colleagues shift to working hybrid and pretty much say the same thing – they just go to the office when they ‘need’ to. ‘Need’ mainly referring to meetings and presentations. However, I’d argue these are the things we should be doing over video, instead we should be in the office when we don’t have days jam-packed with meetings. If we keep on this path, we’ll begin to associate offices with these higher-pressure situations and ‘meeting’ days. Not days where we can connect with each other, talk about what we’re doing, see different perspectives and develop new skills and ways of thinking. It’s this, unplanned learning, that is the real value of an office environment, benefiting employer and employee equally.

So, what’s the lesson? ‘Office time’ shouldn’t equal ‘meeting time’. In fact, the opposite. Plan for unplanned engagement. 

Be Challenged are a partner of our business, Co.gency Group. Before this was the case, we participated in one of their online team events (Big Buzz) and I can say, hand on heart, it’s the most engaging sessions I’ve ever had…and, it was over video. It was done in an hour, so it didn’t throw out the day, and it was the closest thing to unscripted office fun you could imagine.

The team at Be Challenged get that there is no silver bullet when it comes to the WFH/Hybrid/office debate, so they create sessions for teams to work with one another no matter how they want to do it. If your team is suffering from the ‘return to office’ blues, or you are struggling to settle into the hybrid grove, or simply feel a bit disconnected after the pandemic, the BC team will get all you all linked up.

Whether they are delivering a program indoors, outdoors, virtually or hybrid BC will create interactive team building events to get you reconnected!

Lukas Temple
Head of Strategy, Co.gency Group
Written in partnership with Be Challenged.

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