The Return To The Office

The Return To The Office

Key Insights

  • The organisational approach to vaccinations
  • Physical proximity creates a three-fold increase in collaboration
  • How the spillover effect increases workplace performance

While it seemed like a novel concept at first, working from home has become the norm for many of us now. With some kind of normality on the horizon, many are facing a return to the workplace. But are we ready to give up the creature comforts of home life just yet?

If you’re feeling uneasy about a return to the office, you may be surprised to learn there are some amazing benefits that you may have forgotten about office life. To alleviate any apprehension, we’ve put together this piece to help you get prepared for your return to the office.

How Many Companies Will Require Vaccinated Employees?

It’s estimated around 30% of businesses will require vaccination for their employees.  For those who won’t, most are working with experts to find ways to encourage any non-vaccinated employees to receive the jab.

Professor Katy Milkman (economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) said in a recent CNBC article that she believes employers might consider taking something of a softer approach, perhaps even reserving vaccine appointments for their employees. According to research, the inconvenience of booking an appointment plays a large role in many cases of vaccine hesitation.

How A Return To The Office Can Be Beneficial

While the comforts of working from home may have become all too familiar, there are some ways a return to the office can be beneficial. Healthy, even.

A recent McKinsey study found 29% of those asked would consider switching jobs if they were required to return exclusively to on-site working. This has led to many employers working towards a hybrid work model, with days split between home and the workplace. Ultimately though, most employers want their employees back in the office for a significant part of their work time.

While flexibility is usually a good thing, the benefits of the workplace can’t be ignored. For both employers and employees alike, the importance of the connections and engagements we make with colleagues can’t be overstated. It more or less sits at the core of everything we have ahead.

A Sense Of Belonging

A sense of belonging is key to the fulfilment we get through community, no matter where it is. That sense of camaraderie amongst your work team and connection, unity, and acceptance help create a sense of belonging. According to various studies, we get our strongest sense of social identity from the workplace.

This can all be traced back to the industrial revolution when people began moving from the countryside to the cities. To this day, we still crave the connections we established way back in the past, the sense that we’re facing our personal work battles together and are a team that’s all in it together.

This belonging means working together to use our talents to solve common goals and problems. What’s more, it is at the heart of what makes us fulfilled and happy at work.


Surrounding ourselves with work colleagues can also have a significant impact on our overall performance. According to a University of Michigan study, socialising and connecting with our workmates increases our mental function and cognitive performance.

Similarly, a Harvard study found researchers’ academic papers were of a much higher quality when they were in closer proximity to one another. A study undertaken by MIT also found employees were three times more collaborative when in physical proximity to others.

Finally, the Journal of Labour Economics discovered something of a spillover effect. The high performance of one team member positively influenced the output and high performance of colleagues.


It’s important to connect with those around us on some level, no matter how introverted some of us may be. If we don’t get enough face-to-face time with others, then the research begins to show a decline in our wellbeing.

While technology provides a great connection to those around us, it falls way short of the real thing. Eventually, it proves quite taxing and exhausting, with tech fatigue becoming a genuine concern in our lifetimes.

Being present in the office with fellow workmates ultimately has a positive effect on our health, both physically and emotionally.

In scientific terms, the feel-good chemical in the brain oxytocin releases when engaging with others face-to-face. This also causes a dampening of chemicals like adrenocorticotropin and cortisol, which have associations with weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Career Development

We learn best by watching others, even if we’re not always aware of what’s ticking away subconsciously inside our brains. Not only can we learn from our work colleagues though, but they can also learn from us. And ultimately, what’s career progression if it’s not learning?

Furthermore, while no organisation should prioritise any employees based on their location, it’s human nature to go with what we see right in front of us. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for those working from home to be passed up for promotions. It is those lending a physical presence to the workplace who are much more likely to get the job.

Visibility is key to career development and an important way to put yourself on the radar.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, the big return to the office doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We’ve all discovered some huge benefits that come with working from home over the last year and a half, and it would be a shame to lose those completely.

While striking up a good work/life balance is perhaps the key to moving forward, the benefits we get from going into the office can’t be denied, nor the advantages of being an integral part of our workplace communities.

At Horton, we believe the future of the workplace is hybrid. It provides both businesses and employees with the best of both worlds. If you’re looking to create a workplace where all employees thrive, a hybrid solution could be the answer.

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