Back to the Office: The Value of Place and the Office Family

It’s time for those of us who promote a mobile work concept that seeks to get people out of the office to celebrate what happens when they are in the office. We have seen the articles quoting Federal workers on how happy they are to be back at work after the shutdown. And many of them say that one reason that they are happy to be back is that they have missed their office families. While the option to work outside the confines of the cubicle farm provides critical flexibility for people juggling the demands of work, children, and aging parents, people also value their connections with colleagues and even the familiarity of the aging infrastructure that we find when we all come together at the same time and the same place to support a common organization mission.

It’s a good time to re-examine how we interact with our colleagues and what we can do to make the physical work environment more collaborative and productive. If we care about that common bond, we need to work to make it stronger by being present – whether physically or virtually – when and where we are needed. Here are some critical questions for leaders and managers to ask:


  • How can we create a culture that encourages positive interactions?
  • How can we use our face-to-face time to make our business processes more effective?
  • How can we eliminate time wasting meetings that substitute “presence” for “performance”?


  • How can we challenge each other to look for new solutions to old problems?
  • How can we create a culture that supports individuals who challenge the status quo?
  • How can we make sure that all voices are heard when key decisions are made?


  • How can we create a culture that better aligns individual goals with mission goals?
  • How can we do a better job of listening to employee concerns and suggestions?
  • How can we involve a broader range of employees in decisions that impact their work?

If we can find answers to these questions, we will also enhance the ability our employees to work outside the office. When we strengthen our ability to collaborate, innovate, and commit to our work and our colleagues, the organization and everyone in it benefits.

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