Can You Return to The Office?

Can You Return to The Office?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who I first met when we were both digital nomads in Chiang Mai. My friend had some big news to share with me: not only was he back in his home country, but he was also returning to the office after 7 years as a digital nomad. “I’m actually excited about it,” he admitted. “I am a very social person, and I like to be around other people. I also need money so, yes, that’s part of it.”

When I got off the phone, I had to admit that I was surprised but also pleased for my friend. He genuinely seemed happy to be back in the office. Instead of working alone at home or in an isolated corner of a coworking space, he was going to be part of a team and see the same people every day.

I have interviewed many digital nomads as part of the Digital Nomad World podcast, and no one has ever told me that they would willingly work in a 9-5 office job again. Many have returned to their home countries, but no one has returned to the office to work for someone else. I know that the people I interview are a select set of people, but I wonder how many digital nomads are the same. After becoming digital nomads, how many people can willingly return to an office? And is not being able to return to the office a good thing or a bad thing?

The Great Office Return

According to Unispace’s “Returning for Good” report, 42% of companies that required returns to the office after the pandemic saw a higher level of employee attrition than they had initially anticipated. Furthermore, 29% of companies mandating office returns struggle with recruitment. The Greenhouse Candidate Experience Report additionally reported that a shocking 76% of employees are ready to quit if their companies cancel their flexible work schedules. Even employees accustomed to working in the office with no previous digital nomad experience do not seem to want to return, opting instead for flexible hours that allow them to cut out their commutes or juggle work hours with trips to the doctor or taking children to school.

I personally left the office in November 2017 and have never looked back. I used to spend 40 minutes commuting and a minimum of 1 hour per day discussing things in the office with other employees. That’s more than 8 hours per week spending time on work that does not contribute to the quality of the work itself. This alone is reason enough for me to not want to return. However, I do still have nostalgia for the idea of the team spirit and bonding that can occur between employees in a corporate setting. I love watching episodes of The Office even to this day for that very reason—the possibility of recreating that feeling of family at a place where you spend more time than with your actual family members. Am I missing out on something by not working in an office anymore? Are we missing out on something? Can you work in an office anymore? Why or why not?   

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