There was a lot of ironic eye-rolling at the news that video meeting company Zoom, which became synonymous with from home during the pandemic, was ordering its employees to return to the office

 In fact, there’s been an awful lot about the topic lately, with Amazon and Disney “demanding” staff return to the office while Meta, which once proudly proclaimed “good work can get done everywhere”, ordered employees to get back in the office three days a week from next month.

It seems negative language when it comes to calling for workers to return to offices such as “orders” and “rulings” is proliferating.

Apple recently “mandated” three days a week in the office and provoked a huge pushback, with half of its employees saying they wanted to quit as a result. After all, rules and authority create rebellion. 

Right now, there’s too much stick and not enough carrot. Instead, businesses should be talking about the positive benefits for staff of being back in the office.

At St Luke’s, we’re about balance - we have a three day in the office and two day WFH policy, but we don’t force anyone. If a meeting has to happen on a Monday or Friday WFH day, people do come in, but if someone dials in, that’s okay too. 

We don’t mandate that people come to the office, but we do encourage it. Because life happens both inside and outside of work. It’s harder to get creative inspiration if you are always ensconced in the four walls of your home, just travelling from your computer to the kettle. Leaving those confines informs you about the world - it makes you more interested and interesting. 

Not interacting IRL really means you’re missing out - it only takes one throwaway comment from a colleague at your desk to spark a killer idea. Being with a team helps you bounce around ideas and build on your thoughts. Spying someone wearing a crazy outfit going down an escalator on the Tube or having a fascinating chat to a stranger on the bus into work can do the same. You can’t reflect real life in your work or campaigns if you’re not fully immersed in it. It’s all about life’s rich tapestry.

Plus, humans are made to be together. When we’re together, things happen. We’re a people-facing industry. We understand and celebrate the benefits of meeting face-to-face with colleagues and clients old and new. Our business is communications, and interactions help fuel that. 

Every business should be concentrating on creating a culture where you are giving the best to your employees and helping them to be their best - and you can’t do that all remotely. 

As a result, we have an atmosphere where people want to come in - we haven’t had to use harsh language about “forcing” or “mandating” people back into the office.

Instead, we’re positive about the benefits of being in the office as well as embracing positivity of choice to allow some remote work to engender worker autonomy. After all these years of hybrid working, people know what works best for them.

We know people are fed up with 2D video calls too. They want artisan coffee from that place round the corner from the office and not another home-brewed cuppa. They want the vivid 3D atmosphere of office life, animated chats with workmates, having a laugh, bumping into people who aren’t in your team, socialising after work - just the FUN of being in an ad agency.

Yes, travel can be problematic as unreliable public transport and ongoing strikes can be an issue. But once those hurdles are overcome, being in the office is a no-brainer. 

In particular, Gen Zers don’t want to be balancing their laptops on a kitchen table fighting for space with housemates. They crave the social connection and feedback you can only get face-to-face at work; and, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis impacting household bills, the office is a welcoming, fully resourced, wifi-working hub.

But for all ages, there should be a buzz that makes them want to come in. If you don’t, maybe you should be reconsidering your company culture. We actually win pitches because of our culture, it’s so infectious.

Because when a client buys into an agency, it’s not just the work, it’s everyone in the office, from those on the pitch, to the folk welcoming visitors at the door and everyone else they meet in the building. 

It’s vital to have this kind of vibrant office culture and allow some flexibility between those who want, or need, to WFH some of the time too.  

So, let’s start talking positively about the benefits for people that being in the office can bring. 

Rather than using a stick to beat people out of working from home with “mandates”, businesses should be proudly brandishing the carrot that is the creative buzz of the office and the perks of actual human interaction.