Back to the Office!
Welcome back! I hope you all had a great summer, all things considered. With temperatures getting cooler in the evening and the sun setting a little earlier, autumn is definitely on its way. New York feels a bit different than last September, but there’s still a lot of energy in the air that’s been missing since the middle of March, and it feels great to be back.
While the country has begun to reopen over the past few weeks, one of the recurring themes I keep hearing is about the death of the office as we know it. Lots of people seem to think that WFH (working from home, in our new abbreviated lexicon) is the new business model and that commuting to an office each day has gone the way of the typewriter, telex and fax machine. Well, I’m here to tell you from my desk in our Melville, Long Island, operations center that the office is very much alive and well – and ready for a major comeback! (I’m not the only CEO who thinks so – kudos to Bruce Stachenfeld, chairman of Duval & Stachenfeld, who wrote a great think piece on this topic recently.)
It’s been six months since the pandemic started, the economy is finally starting to reopen on a large scale (with states rolling out according to their own specific situations), kids are starting to go back to school (remotely and in person), and a vaccine is in the works, fingers crossed. Marcum’s offices across the country are fully functioning, and I for one am flat-out happy to get up every morning, shower, shave (this week marked the first week in six months that I actually shaved two days in a row), put on my business attire, jump into the car, and drive the 70 miles to Melville. More and more of the rest of Marcum’s people across the country are doing the same, with an increasing number of associates and partners reporting to their offices on a daily basis, same as always.
True, every desk is not yet occupied – we’re still being flexible with people who have issues they’re wrestling with at home – but with Marcum observing the appropriate safety protocols and local occupancy restrictions, we hope to see even more people returning to work at the office as time goes on.
After being away from our firm offices for months, it’s clear to me it’s a lot easier to stay in the loop and remain top-of-mind if you see your colleagues in person. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to collaborate when you’re together. We all have our own examples of AHA! moments in company hallways and coffee rooms. That’s one of the challenges of working remotely: Zoom meetings are great and can be very efficient, and being able to deliver work product digitally the past few months was a godsend, but you miss all of the daily, informal idea exchanges that drive innovation.
There’s just no substitute for the kind of environmental learning that takes place when people are working together in person. Whether you’re a brand new accountant fresh out of school or someone with 10 years of experience, you continually learn from the daily dynamics of working in a shared environment. And at a professional services firm like ours, there’s an incredible amount of knowledge you soak up by simply working alongside your colleagues and watching them interact with clients and peers and manage whatever situations may arise.
Keeping the channels of communication open with people you trust, whether at work or outside of it, is really important. One of my biggest concerns right now is all of the disinformation being spread on social media and elsewhere about the election, vaccines, and other news that affects us all. There are a lot of influences out there, and as we all know, not all of them are honest. People tend to believe what they read, but I encourage you to use your judgment, listen to the candidates with your own ears, filter what you see and hear through your own experiences, and reach reasoned conclusions.
Many of us crave certainty, but that’s a scarce commodity. One thing I do know for sure is that I’ll be drinking my morning coffee at my desk in the office for the foreseeable future.
I’d be remiss without acknowledging that today is September 11, the 19th anniversary of the tragic attacks on U.S. soil which took 2,977 innocent lives in New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA. It’s so easy in this time of COVID, which for many is all-consuming, to forget the unforgettable. 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, the way we enter office buildings, and so many other liberties we had previously taken for granted. The current Coronavirus pandemic will certainly have another profound effect on society. Two major life-altering occurrences in a mere 20 years. May those we lost in the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath Rest in Peace and may time heal the wounds of those they left behind. We should never forget.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and remember we are all in this together.