Blogs > Product Management Training
By Louise Cantrill - Head of Consultancy
Many of us are now returned to the office for 2 – 3 days per week, so this week we are going to discuss the benefits of being back in the office.
For those of us that have resisted the urge to get back into an office (and I am one of them) It’s easy for us to speak of the disruptions, the noise levels, the office chit chat, the lack of available meeting space, and don’t forget the commute.
Firstly, no office is perfect. There will always be people who talk too loudly, people who chew with their mouths open, and people who steal your lunch from the fridge. But overall, there are benefits of working in an office, they are just different to those of working from home. There are always trade-offs.
These are some of my favourite benefits of working in an office.
1. The lunch break with colleagues
I commuted to Milan from London as part of my previous role; out on Tuesday and back on Thursday every week for almost 2 years. So, I learnt first-hand that taking a leisurely lunch break with your colleagues is a sacred part of Italian culture.
The lunch break for Italians is a time to relax, socialize, connect with others and build relationships. Italians consider it essential to improve your concentration and productivity for the afternoon’s work and they frown upon the UK and American culture of a sandwich eaten at your desk. I loved those lunches in Milan, we socialised and bonded as a team and it created a very strong and positive work environment, where I felt very safe. When the team no longer needed my help, and I stopped going to Milan my job satisfaction actually reduced as I mostly slipped back into eating my lunch at my desk.
A big benefit for me of working in an office is that you always have someone to have lunch with, you have a captive audience to talk about your work, your family, your hobbies, and anything else that is on your mind. Whether you're telling a funny story or just making a quick observation, you can always expect some acceptance and empathy from your colleagues.
I have a confession…. I once flew to Sao Paulo for 24 hours and then flew to Hong Kong where I spent 48 hours, and then flew home again. For anyone new in their career and anyone who is environmentally conscious this is clearly a crazy thing to do. I am not advocating a return to those times, but there was a reason we did that, and it wasn’t only the air miles. In those days we valued highly, the benefits of the face-to-face and the collaboration that could be achieved by being in person, above our personal efficiency, and saving the planet.
There is no denying it face-to-face communication is more effective than remote communication because it allows for nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Face-to-face reduces misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Being physically present allows for networking opportunities both within the organization and with external contacts, and building a professional network can be instrumental in our career growth, it has been in mine and is one of the reasons I now work with Garry at Tarigo.
Be honest, when we are in online training or meetings, are we present and in the moment 100% of the time? Do we give it our fullest attention, or does our mind and our eyes wonder to the other 10 things we have to get done today?
In face-to-face, there is so much more responsibility to be present and it is easier to pay attention most of the time, and be fully available. In face-to-face we are more focused, and with that comes increased ideas and contributions. When product teams are able to brainstorm and collaborate in person, they are more likely to come up with creative and innovative ideas. You can work hard to try and create this online, but to do it properly takes enormous effort from an organiser/ facilitator and enormous concentration and focus from those attending to be able to give their all. and not get distracted. We’ve measured it, and in a room where people are face- to- face as opposed to online, there is far more bouncing of ideas off of each other. Face-to-face, people build more on each other's thoughts, and they generate almost 23% more ideas than when online.
I feel personally less productive when I am in an office, but I do recognise that I have become very self-sufficient. I am at a particular point in my career; I am confident in what I do, I make most of my own decisions, I have a lot of autonomy in what I do, and minimal interdependencies. My situation isn’t the same many of the product teams I work with. Most product teams have lots of dependencies, they also have team members who have less experience, and there are often lots of handoffs in their roles. I know when these product teams are able to meet in person, they can make decisions often more quickly and efficiently, the pros, and cons of different options can be discussed, and teams can reach a consensus more easily.
I love a good Miro board, but there is still inefficiency in crafting things in such a way that they can be easily understood and there is the endless zooming in, and zooming out and chasing people around the board; “Where are you?” “I can’t find it!” “Can you bring me to you?” Ahh the good old days when you just used to grab a flip chart or a whiteboard and do a sketch and say, “It looks a bit like this…What do you think?”
We must have all experienced frustration at times working at home in isolation, when you just have a quick question that you know a couple of colleagues could have answered easily, and you spend the next week chasing the colleague down, calling them up and playing telephone tag, sending them messages on Slack and sometimes having to put in a Teams meeting to just get the answer.
It might take me some time to fully love the office again but there no denying, it encourages team building and camaraderie among colleagues, where personal relationships can be nurtured, and this can lead to better collaboration and teamwork on tasks, and a more cohesive and productive work environment.
Where else will you find a bunch of people who have the same products, markets and customer challenges as you.
If you take nothing else away from this piece today just be more Milanese, choose a lunch place, invite some co-workers, take your time, savour the food and enjoy the company, talk about everything and nothing: catch up and share stories. Don't worry about work or other obligations. Just sit back, relax, and have a good time.
There are no piles of washing to do in your lunch break at the office!
Enjoy the return to the office!
We enable product managers to drive success.Established in 2003, Tarigo has built an enviable reputation for delivering high-quality training and consultancy solutions to product managers throughout Europe and the USA.
Our fresh approach to product management training has proven incredibly successful and our capability to adapt to clients’ training and consultancy needs has only helped to further this success.