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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Success and Leadership - To office or not to office: Three questions to ask yourself before making that commute

Success and Leadership

To office or not to office: Three questions to ask yourself before making that commute

Evelina Bereni

For the last two years we’ve seen ample research about the benefits of remote work including better balance, higher productivity, enhanced job satisfaction to name a few. 

Then why do we still hear the siren’s call, enticing us back to the office – even when our organisation’s given us full rein over our schedule AND backed a flexible work policy…

Is it FOMO? Is it lingering cultural norms that make you feel guilty for working from home? Do you miss your work wife/ husband? Before schlepping to the bus stop when you’d prefer to don your favourite pair of Ugg boots, ask yourself these three questions.

What will working from the office today give me/ my team that working remotely cannot.

This is where we can start challenging old belief systems and assumptions.

  • Assumption: I’m holding an ideation session and the outputs will be better if we’re all in-person. Reality: research shows that virtual ideation works better for innovation – it just needs to be supported by the right tools (Inventium can help!).
  • Assumption: My manager prefers that people work from the office. Reality: eermm have you actually had that conversation? 
  • Assumption: Meetings run more effectively in-person. Reality: despite the funny parody videos, there’s no research to suggest that in-person meetings are more effective than remote ones. It all depends on how they’re structured and run, though either option is anecdotally better than a hybrid meeting if you can avoid it. 
  • Assumption: You need to have physical separation between your house and your workplace to maintain work/life balance. Reality: While this might be the most definitive way to signal to your brain that it’s time to stop work, there are other ways you can create these boundaries. At Inventium, we love a good shutdown ritual.

Now over to you – what assumptions do you have about why you need to work from the office today? Now challenge them!

If I couldn’t get to the office how would I do X task/ meeting to achieve the same or better outcome? (e.g. imagine your mode of transport became unavailable, flood waters cut off access to main roads, the office was closed due to a mouse infestation) 

Get those neural juices flowing and start with identifying the outcome you’re trying to achieve by going to the office. Then it’s as simple as brainstorming some alternative ways of getting to that same outcome from home. What technology could support you? Who should you pick up the phone and call? What needs to be prepared in advance? 

With a bit of practice this can become a 2-minute mental exercise during your evening shower as you plan your tomorrow. And if you can’t come up with a suitable solution – you have your answer!

Now, if you’ve decided that working from the office IS absolutely necessary, there’s one more thing to consider. 

How am I going to use my commute time?

Your golden commute time between work responsibilities and the craziness of home life is another opportunity to squeeze more into your already packed day, right? Absolutely not.

This is where you’re going to set a new habit – probably the toughest one yet. To make the most of this idle time, you’re going to practice being bored. Doing nothing. Not responding to your last emails. Not scrolling social media. Not looking at photos of your kids from day-care. Not listening to a podcast.

And it’s going to feel pretty awkward at first because you’re likely going to be the only one in the bus/ tram/ train not staring at your screen (I know this from experience). By allowing yourself to be bored, you’re enhancing your creativity and giving your unconscious the space to problem solve. You’re also giving your brain the respite it needs before and after a day of cerebral heavy lifting. Give it a go for a week and I guarantee your brain will love you for it (and you might get some innovative ideas too!).  

To office or not to office – the choice is yours. At the end of the day you might also say “I just want to go” and that’s fine too.  You do you.


Written by Evelina Bereni.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Success and Leadership - To office or not to office: Three questions to ask yourself before making that commute
Evelina Bereni
Evelina Bereni is a psychologist and Prosci Certified Change Practitioner at leading behavioural science and innovation consultancy Inventium. She has over 15 years’ experience helping people thrive at work.


Evelina Bereni is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn.