The Future Is Minimum Office, Not Zero Office

Having the best of both worlds means a lot of WFH and a little WFO

Stowe Boyd
Jul 12, 2020 · 3 min read
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In Hybrid Remote Work Offers the Worst of Both Worlds, Sid Sijbrandij, the CEO of GitLab, makes the argument that companies will either go back to the office or adopt an all-remote work model once the pandemic is over:

I don’t buy it. He offers no evidence or research about his claims about the difficulties involved in ‘hybrid remote work’. However, there is a great deal of research to the contrary from the pre-coronavirus era. For example, in the Gallup State of the American Workplace 2017, the research firm found this (as I reported in Paradoxes of Engagement: Remote Isn’t):

Let’s call the model that leads to higher engagement and productivity ‘minimum office’, and allow each person to define what that minimum is for them and their team.

So, it appears that those who visit the office two to four days out of ten report the highest self-assessment of being productive, and higher engagement than those that never work remotely. So Sijbrandij is perhaps half right. But the best results come from working in the office with team members a day a week or so… or maybe getting out of the house at least a day a week or so.

I’d like to suggest we turn the thinking and terminology around and drop both the ‘hybrid’ and ‘remote’ terms. Let’s call the model that leads to higher engagement and productivity ‘minimum office’, and allow each person to define what that minimum is for them and their team.

I’m betting that minimum office will become dominant. Yes, many companies will opt for zero office with annual team meetings on a mountain top. But most companies will simply turn the dial up from the company’s pre-pandemic baseline, and allow people to avoid the office significantly more than in the past. For some, that could be nearly 100%, but for most — at least those that don’t move to a ski area, a sheep ranch in New Zealand, or a Caribbean island — I expect we’ll see people coordinating schedules to overlap with coworkers a day or so a week. So long as their companies let them.

Also, note that cash-hungry companies are going to be turning down the dial on leasing real estate now that they have learned that maximum office is a luxury at the best, and a useless extravagance at the worst.

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Stowe Boyd

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

Work Futures

The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future

Stowe Boyd

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

Work Futures

The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future

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