“Walking meetings” are not going to bring people back to the office.

Joy Adan, senior thought leadership manager at Reward Gateway, an Australian human resource consulting company, said that connecting with co-workers and building those relationships were a critical part of work and should not be trivialised.

“Coffee badging could be employees proactively and intentionally devoting their in-office time to connect with their colleagues over a coffee or meal, and thereby building connections,” she said.

“Rather than providing generic return-to-office instructions, people leaders could use this trend to their advantage by clearly articulating and setting up activities that show employees how they can best utilise their in-office days.”

Ms Adan said this could include scheduling team lunches, one-on-ones with employees and their manager, mentoring opportunities or even walking meetings.

Corporate consultants like those at Reward Gateway, are peddling what can only be described as a workplace fairy tale. It's a tale spun with threads of pure nostalgia, weaving a vision of the office as a bustling hub of collaboration and social connection – an idea entirely at odds with the realities of today's workforce. Their misguided belief that workers will be enticed back to the office with mandated lunches and - inexplicably and bizarrely - "walking meetings" is utterly absurd.

This push to revive the traditional office-centric model is more than just anachronistic; it's a glaring misread of the room. With their inherent inflexibility and rigidity, the insistence on reverting to pre-pandemic work structures borders on fantasy. It neglects the profound shift in employee priorities and the fundamental reevaluation of work-life balance over the past few years.

To these corporate nostalgists, the office is not just a place of work; it's a linchpin of social interaction, a crucible for team spirit, and almost a sacred space for organizational culture. But this romanticized view is a mirage. Legions of workers who have tasted the freedom and flexibility of remote work are unwilling to return to the old ways plagued by long, draining commutes, constant distractions, and a blurring of personal and professional boundaries.

The pandemic didn't just temporarily displace workers from their desks; it dismantled long-standing myths about productivity and collaboration being tied to physical presence.

The future of work isn't about mandating where work happens; it's about creating an ecosystem that respects individual needs and fosters productivity, whether in an office, at home, or somewhere in between. The fairy tale of returning to 'normal' is just that – a story that's increasingly out of sync with the needs of today's workforce.

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