Work From Home vs. In-Office: is it really essential businesses operate strictly in office environments?
In March 2020, the World Health Organisation officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Since, many companies, organisations and public servants have had to shift their working environments from office-based, to remote, work-from-home systems. With the world in lockdown for the better part of 2020 and 2021, millions of workers have since become accustomed to working from home and many companies in fact have since offered permanent remote positions to their staff or hybrid versions thereof.
However, before the pandemic most companies had an in-office policy whereby workers could seldomly work remotely or from home and those same sentiments are ringing true as the world begins to open up, particularly in the financial sector. But is it really essential that businesses operate strictly in office environments when this past year has shown that employees are capable and companies can still remain functional and profitable without employees necessarily working in office?
Why the pushback against Work From Home (WFH)?
According to BBC Worklife, Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, suggests that the mindset of persons in the finance industry is rooted in the desire to maintain company culture and job motivation. Historically, legacy companies have been more oriented towards “top down” hierarchies, he says. Additionally, Bloom adds that since the pandemic, other legitimate concerns regarding remote working have emerged with employees experiencing reduced productivity due to a lack of space and privacy; loss of informal interactions; and the mental burden of always being connected to the internet.
Why do people enjoy working from home?
It’s no secret that remote work has become increasingly popular over the years especially amongst the younger generation seeking the freedom of adventure while still being able to maintain jobs and afford their travels. The WFH model offers exactly such freedoms and has since extended that new-age nomad-type working style to ordinary people. But what is it about WFH that is so appealing? According to a leading recruitment site, Indeed.com, the flexibility and freedom WFH offers employees is incredibly enticing. The article notes that: “It can even increase productivity and employee morale to work remotely. Working from home allows employees to enjoy more flexibility since they can often work whenever they are more creative. The advantage of work-life balance is what motivates many employees to join the remote workforce.” But other reasons suggest that employees enjoy working from home for the following reasons too:
- Broader range of job opportunities. This suggests that unlike before, employees now have the freedom and flexibility to take on more than one “office” job and work at it to their leisure, enjoying the comforts of dictating their own time while making the earnings of their choice – something an in-office role would deprive them of being able to commit to full-time.
- Less stress commuting to work. According to an article in flexjobs.com, the average person spends about 30 minutes commuting to and from work each way, every day. This commute leaves thousands of employees stuck in traffic for usual 9am-5pm working days and often leads to increased blood pressure and higher levels of stress.
So, is it really essential for businesses to operate strictly in office environments?
Not necessarily. While certain sectors may require workers to come in physically and in many cases, employees might prefer the routine, structure and separation of work and personal life, it isn’t necessarily a necessity. Businesses can function fine with the right team, as long as the expectations and demands are clearly set out and employees can deliver upon that. Different people enjoy different freedoms, and their ideals of what productivity means can also differ from person to person. Some researchers suggest that over this past year productivity has increased, while other companies have reported that team-morale and overall productivity has decreased. It is difficult to blanket productivity in itself because what drives productivity or what defines it can also be an ever-changing definition for different companies and managing staff. Overall, remote work, or a hybrid model that allows employees to work either from home, or in office, or on-and-off in office or out of office would possibly be a great shift across all industries as not every employee enjoys the same working environments. Ultimately, different people excel in different places and that includes the environments they work in.