Business leaders I’m speaking to right now are wrestling with the same challenge. How to re-create an energetic, productive office environment post-pandemic.

A sensitive debate is in play. CEOs want to fill the workspace four or five days a week. They tend to reflect this in their own behaviour. Most of their reports, however, are choosing to come in, at most, on two or three days.

These bosses cite the extraordinary, unexpected stuff that happens when people get together IRL (as it is now termed). Also, they argue, video conferencing is transactional, not relational; learning and development, along with social skills, recede within a scattered workforce; isolation is creeping in unnoticed; and, with a hint of exasperation, ‘read your contract of employment’.

On the other hand, what they hear from colleagues is that commercial efficacy, work/life balance, family cohesion, childcare, pet ownership and fulfilment in general are all enhanced by spending the bulk of the week at home.

As is often the way, immediate, day-to-day benefits trump longer-term, less concrete considerations. And who would deny that COVID has accelerated positive changes?

The tyranny of the office was unhealthy, presenteeism literally so. New technology has rendered default commuting unnecessary. Some days, some weeks, if we need to get our heads down and write a report, for example, WFH is the smart option.

And, while there are exceptions, the reality for most organisations is that employees, especially in a tight job market, cannot legitimately be compelled to commute (whatever Elon Musk thinks).

How to resolve this?

In my view, the answer lies in re-positioning the office. It is no longer a passive facility that offers a workstation plus comfort, community, and occasional treats.

If leaders cannot assume that staff members will show up, then the building itself needs to become magnetic. A day spent there must be worth the trip – stimulating, nourishing, purposeful. In short, office management has become too important to remain the sole responsibility of, well, Office Management.

And the drivers of this transformation are not C-suite executives. The second tier holds the key. These guys are the engine room, they run the teams, they make things happen. But only if they are present. Seemingly they are also the people who have adapted best to remote working, enjoying its flexibility and domestic conveniences.

I have observed that it is the most junior staffers, like the most senior, who instinctively feel there is more to gain from being at work in person. The leaders in the upper middle less so.

Ultimately, we are hard-wired to gather in groups. In business, we are better for it. We aim higher, go further. Hybrid working can build on this, however, offering a more intelligent, democratic operating rhythm. We just need to get the balance right.

In this vital endeavour, the leaders of tomorrow must become leaders of today.