After two years of living upside down in a right side up world, it actually appears as if the world is ready – if not resigned – to going back. Into the office. Into school. Into restaurants. Into stores. Wherever.
But not back to the way it was. Not back to the past. Not now, not ever. Rather, we are all venturing back to a new future. We must not kid ourselves; two years of WFH has created behavioral shifts that there is no coming back from.
In fact, the very idea that we can all just go back to work and not be trampled by the elephant in the room is not only crazy, it is downright dangerous. Let’s be honest, we have all been working from home for two years… in our slippers and sweats… eating breakfast for lunch… taking 2-hour fitness breaks between meetings… washing 6 loads of clothes while writing reports… walking the dog while talking to clients… and wearing a mask… and washing our hands… and avoiding human contact.
So yeah, you cannot just flip the switch and expect 2019 to reappear. It ain’t happening. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.
At Sweeney, we abandoned our Cleveland and Wilmington offices two years ago, only occasionally showing up in teams of one to check mail, pick up packages or meet vendors (from across the room). I cannot even imagine what it will be like to gather again as a full team for 8 hours a day. In fact, I refuse to try. Instead, I am imagining a new and inspired approach. Not a hybrid, which is corporate speak for forced compromise.
I am imagining a cultural shift in which people are not judged by how busy they look or how often they are in the office or how early they arrive and how late they stay. Instead, a world in which we recognize and reward availability and commitment, attitude and support, output and results. I am imagining a space where people can safely gather – if and when they want or need to – to learn and think and strategize and create and plan and present and produce – individually and in teams.
Not utopia, but something better, because it is real and it resulted from two years of natural evolution. I am looking forward, and going back to the future. I will still wear my mask, at least for a while, and I will keep washing my hands, and if I don’t feel well, I will just stay home… or maybe I will just work from home because I want to or because I have a contractor coming to look at my furnace. And I will get all my work done and it will be great stuff… as always.