Becoming Part of the Furniture: Embracing the In-Person Workplace Revolution

The Remote Revolution: Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

Once upon a time, we revelled in the novelty of rolling out of bed five minutes before our first meeting, clad in business-on-top and comfort-down-below attire, all while sharing screens with our loyal canine executive assistants. However, as that era draws to a close, life has resumed its familiar rhythms, and the memory of those alien days is fading into the backdrop of our daily routines. Yet, in this post-COVID era, remnants of the past linger (and we're not just referring to the puppies adopted during lockdown). We're addressing a generation uneasy about face-to-face interactions.
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The remote work revolution undeniably brought convenience to the lives of individuals with diverse responsibilities, such as parents juggling professional commitments with school runs and executive assistants managing multifaceted tasks. However, the ease of digital communication has become a double-edged sword, with emails and virtual platforms acting as shields for the younger workforce, leading them to shy away from in-person exchanges.
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Behind the Virtual Curtain

The impact of this virtual barrier extends beyond the professional realm, seeping into the private lives of individuals, isolating younger employees from the social fabric of the physical office space. The absence of brainstorming sessions, impromptu water cooler conversations, and polite hallway hellos can leave people feeling isolated, impacting their mental health and wellbeing. Moreover, remote working blurs the lines between professional and personal life, making it challenging to switch off at the end of the day. It's much easier to 'just check one more email' when your bedroom doubles as your workspace. Wouldn't it be more appealing to take some time for yourself on your commute to the office, reading a novel on the tube or train, or listening to that podcast you never have time for? Perhaps even jog part of the way home for some much-needed fresh air and exercise?

Working remotely often leads to decreased productivity compared to working in an office environment. A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that remote workers were 18% less productive than their in-office counterparts, taking longer to complete tasks. Gensler's research shows that workers in the UK spend half of their workweek in the office. When asked how much in-person time is needed to increase overall productivity, their answers climbed to two-thirds, highlighting the potential for enhanced efficiency with a shift towards office working.

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Revitalizing Workspaces

Many companies advocate for a return to the office, emphasizing the potential to increase productivity and overall revenue. However, creating an office environment that contributes to an improved employee experience is crucial for making it a destination of choice. When Personal Assistants, Receptionists and office support staff feel supported, valued, and empowered, they are more likely to make the commute and go above and beyond for their employer.
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While an Owl Labs study reveals that 62% of workers feel more productive when working remotely, Oktra's research suggests that 78% of Gen Z and Millennial workers, including their executive assistants, perceive being in the office as beneficial for learning, development and career advancement.
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Considering Deloitte's prediction that Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025, organizations should strategically engage with their younger workforce – whether recent graduates or experienced EAs, Receptionists and office support staff, to encourage their return to the office by creating a working environment designed to support their needs.

Now, we're not talking putting greens, beer taps, and climbing walls. In fact, the days of ping-pong tables and quirky design gimmicks are generally long gone. The focus for Gen Z and Millennial workers, along with their executive assistants, has shifted towards an office space that serves a real purpose, enabling them to carry out their work efficiently while supporting a balanced lifestyle.

Strategic Approaches to Enhance Employees' Experience

Companies can adopt strategies to promote the office as an indispensable hub for productivity, collaboration, and innovation.

1. Career Progression Opportunities

Being physically present in the office significantly increases the likelihood of gaining recognition from, and successfully networking with, senior colleagues. Companies can actively promote these relationships by organizing workshops, talks, and mentorship programs, investing in the professional development of their executive assistants, Receptionists and Office Support Staff. In-person discussions with senior members of staff can provide aspiring individuals with access to guidance, wisdom, and valuable networks that can often be the catalyst for career breakthroughs.

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2. Rewards and Incentives for Working in the Office

Tangible rewards for in-person attendance, such as performance bonuses, can serve as enticing motivators for executive assistants, PAs and Receptionists. According to a study by KPMG, nearly 9 out of 10 CEOs say they are likely to reward employees with pay rises, promotions, and favourable assignments if they come into the office. By tailoring rewards to align with the preferences and aspirations of employees and their executive assistants, companies can create a workplace culture that values in-person collaboration and celebrates individuals contributing to the vibrant energy of the workplace.

3. Collaborative and Sociable Environment

Imagine a synergetic workplace bursting with lively discussions and creative ideas – a setting where collaboration isn't merely encouraged but woven into both the physical office space and the company culture. According to a study by Gensler, over 4 out of 5 workers who express satisfaction with their workplace environment have a choice in where they work, whether at their desk, in a meeting room, a private pod, or a breakout space. The social aspect is equally important for collaborative work, especially for younger employees and their executive assistants. Whether through team-building activities or after-work drinks, fostering positive working relationships can serve as a compelling incentive for younger employees to choose the office as their preferred place of work.

4. Promoting Health and Wellbeing

Prioritizing one's health is gaining traction, especially among younger generations. Companies promoting employee wellbeing can be a powerful magnet for drawing people back to the office. You don't need a fully decked out gym and a trendy juice bar to look after the health of your staff members. Small changes, like encouraging cycling to work or setting up an optional running club, are good places to start!

The allure of working from home for journalists, writers, and freelancers is undeniable, and may genuinely benefit productivity and career progress. However, for those who are part of an office, the choice to come into the physical workspace is not merely a matter of convenience; it's an investment in one's career trajectory. Becoming a fixture in the office holds a unique power that can significantly influence your career progression.

Instead of just fulfilling your job responsibilities you can forge connections and become woven into the fabric of the organisation. When you are present, you’re not just an employee; you're a colleague, a team member, part of the furniture. In short, someone whose contributions are noticed beyond the confines of a computer screen.

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For an executive assistant or personal assistant, working in the office holds distinct advantages over remote arrangements. The dynamic nature of their roles often requires seamless coordination, immediate responsiveness, and quick access to the intricate workings of their boss’ daily affairs. In the office environment, these professionals can foster real-time collaboration, facilitate spontaneous discussions and decisions, and swiftly address urgent matters. The immediacy of face-to-face interactions enables a faster exchange of information, allowing for agile problem-solving and efficient decision-making. Additionally, being physically present in the office cultivates a stronger professional bond with their boss, providing a tangible and nuanced understanding of their preferences and work style. This closeness not only enhances the EA’s ability to anticipate needs but also contributes to a more cohesive and synchronized working relationship, ultimately fostering a more effective and supportive partnership.

Human beings are inherently social creatures, and the business world is no exception. Real, human connections in the workplace foster a sense of camaraderie and trust that transcends virtual interactions. Casual encounters with senior colleagues or chance conversations in the hallway can lead to mentorship relationships that are often catalysts for professional growth. It's not just about the work you do; it's about the relationships you build, the guidance you receive, and the mentorship that propels you forward in your career.

Knightsbridge Recruitment is a boutique consultancy which has been placing stand-out candidates in the most sought after permanent and temporary Executive Assistant, Personal Assistant, Private PA and executive office support jobs in London, for over 35 years.
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