Reimagining the Office for Immensely Human Interactions

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In a recent conversation, the CEO of a global imaging services company shared the biggest worry keeping her up at night: Most of her employees who have been working from home during the pandemic do not want to return to the office. She is torn because while productivity has been great, new hires seem like strangers, and the company’s overall sense of community has been lost. In other companies, the situation is more dire. One senior vice president shared with us that four of his employees had recently taken medical leave for depression. The cause? Prolonged social isolation. These are not uncommon scenarios. Surveys of employees consistently reveal a similar pattern: People are learning to work constructively from home and are reluctant to return to the office full time, for reasons ranging from commuting hassles to workday flexibility. And yet many employees are miserable, longing for connection with coworkers and feeling acutely cut off. This comes at a time when personal social networks have shrunk: Survey respondents reported in June 2020 that they had fewer close friends (by 20%) and fewer close colleagues (by 25%) compared with a year earlier.

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