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A perennial issue: office vs. remote

As an executive search consultant, you have more conversations with people than in almost any other profession: countless sales meetings, briefings, interviews, networking meetings and video calls take place throughout the year. Certain topics are 'perennial favorites' in these conversations. One of these is the topic of 'office vs. remote'. Let me briefly summarize the main phases of the discussions over the past few years:

Phase 1 - before Corona: Modern and international companies have always had remote working models and find them good and sensible. Most others struggle with the topic. I often hear people say behind closed doors: 'You know, I don't think much of working from home.'

Phase 2 - Corona: everyone works remotely. Those for whom this is new are very proud of their technical and cultural development: 'We had to equip all employees with the appropriate technology in a very short space of time and culturally it was also a huge challenge. But it works really well and we are very efficient.'

Phase 3 - after Corona: opinions and concepts follow Gauss's normal distribution: hardliners at the edges. On the one side: 'We no longer have an office, we don't need one. If we want to see each other, we'll do an offsite.' On the other side are the extreme office advocates à la Elon Musk: 'People are welcome to work from home in their free time, but please come to the office for 40 hours first.' In between, there is the majority with 4/1, 3/2, 2/3, 1/4 - arrangements in which the days from Monday to Friday are divided between remote and office presence or team days are agreed on Tuesday and Thursday.

Everyone has an opinion on the subject because it affects everyone. I've heard the arguments and views so often that it's getting a bit tiring. So I often ask: what do you think is the 'gold standard' on the subject? I find three approaches better than many others:

Firstly, the office has to be so attractive that people would rather be there than anywhere else: the facilities, atmosphere and range of benefits are so good that people like to be there often. The advantages of working together on site are therefore self-evident.

Secondly: setting quotas: instead of rigid regulations on a weekly basis, for example, it is stipulated that everyone should be in the office 20 days a quarter. This means that there is always something going on in the offices. At the same time, employees can also flexibly work four weeks from somewhere else.

Thirdly, teams or departments decide for themselves what makes sense for them and set appropriate rules.

As a self-employed person, I have rented an office in a co-working space where I spend almost every day. I simply don't want to work at home all the time. But when I'm in my second home in Barcelona, I really enjoy being able to continue working there without any restrictions and am grateful for the opportunities offered by our 'brave new world'.

About the author

Dr. Sebastian Tschentscher finds the best digital minds for your company with his executive search boutique "Digital Minds".

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