February 24, 2022

Returning to Work: What Does it Look Like?

The past several months have seen the ‘should-we-or-shouldn’t-we’ debate heat up for companies, as they try to navigate what everyone hopes is the back-end of the pandemic. Has the pandemic proven that their employees are just as productive working from home as they are in the office? Or has it proven that they’re not? The evidence certainly suggests that most people have been more than happy to have worked from home for the past two years, with some, like the employees at Amazon, revolting against their employers’ attempts to fill up those cubicles again, forcing their employers into pivoting to hybrid or fully remote options.

remote-boardsCould work-from-home work permanently? Or is a hybrid model best?

When it comes to getting employees back to work, companies have responded in different ways. But from Amazon to Zoom, and big and small companies in between, there’s no doubt that the pandemic has caused a structural shift in what a 40-hour work week looks like.

Basically, there are three return-to-work options that most employees are considering: remaining fully remote, returning to the office full-time, or a hybrid of the two, where employees come into the office two or three times a week. Each option has pros and cons, for the employers and the employees.

Pros and Cons of Working Fully Remote 

PRO: Work / Life Balance and Boundaries

An improved work/life balance seems to be at the forefront of peoples’ argument for staying fully remote. For many people, working from home is a dream come true. They can drive their kids to school, go for a run at lunch, and throw in a load of laundry between meetings. Lots of people have found their most productive time of the day happens between 6:00 and 8:00 at night. Most importantly, no commute means more time spent doing the things that help them unwind and recharge. Sixty-nine percent of employees find that they’re as productive or more productive at home as they are in the office.

91% of remote workers want to maintain remote work to some degree.

PRO: Saves Employees and Employers Money

Employees save money working from home because they don’t have to buy gas or train tickets or pay for tolls or new office attire. Employees with solo-playing children have seen their childcare costs disappear.

And employers see substantial savings in rent and utilities by downsizing or even eliminating their physical footprint. Plus, with so many eligible employees looking for fully-remote roles, employers save money on recruiting costs.

PRO: Talent Pool with no Boundaries

With a fully-remote model, employers aren’t limited to the pool of employees that’s within commuting distance. They can hire the very best candidates from around the world.

CON: Home is Not Conducive to Workschedule-committees--worked

For many, working fully remote is a logistical nightmare. From bad internet connections to interruptions from kids and spouses, it can be hard for some people to focus on work when they’re at home. And when you work from home every day, it can be hard to keep the ‘work’ and the ‘home’ separate. Parents of young children, in particular, have had a very hard time adjusting to the new work-from-home paradigm. With after school programs on hold and kids being sent home for mild runny noses, many parents find themselves juggling childcare with working from home.

CON: Feeling Isolatedboard-portal-remote-work

While many people thrive working at home, with less office distractions and interruptions, working from home can make many people feel alone and isolated. It can be hard to connect with your co-workers over video calls, and no incentive to leave the house every day can lead to loneliness. Working from home means you might not have immediate access to company information until someone reaches out to you. 

Pros and Cons of Going Back to the Office

PRO: Need for Socialization

The biggest perk of going back to the office full time is the human contact / socialization aspect that so many people have been missing. For many, Google Meet and Slack messaging are no substitute for engaging with coworkers face-to-face. They crave the socialization—they want to get out of the house and see people. Since they started working from home, many employees feel disconnected from their teams. And it can be hard for new employees to integrate into the company culture in an all-remote setting.

PRO: Impromptu Collaboration and Communication

From an employer’s perspective, you can’t put a price on the spontaneous collaboration that happens in the office kitchen while people wait for their turn at the microwave. Organic conversations between people in the office get problems solved—they keep ideas flowing and projects moving forward.

PRO: Defined Structure

When you work in an office, you have a set schedule when the day starts and ends. Going into the office every day eliminates the distractions at home (family, chores, TV) and makes it easier to stay focused and on task.board-software-security--worked

CON: The Commute

For every person who makes the most out of the time it takes them to commute, there are countless others stuck in traffic, crammed into trains, and otherwise wasting precious hours of their day traveling to and from work.

CON: Desk Life

People working at the office often feel like they’re chained to their desks—that people will be judging them if they step away from their cubicle. It’s important for focus and well-being to get up and walk around several times a day.

29% of employees have vowed to quit their jobs if their employees insist they come back into the office full time.

Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Work Model

PRO: Socializationwork-from-home

You get to see people and be social when you want to. Face-to-face time a couple times a week is great to help you feel connected to your team and the rest of your coworkers. Coming into the office makes you feel more like you’re part of something and keeps the company culture strong.

PRO: Flexibility

Driving 45 minutes to the office is a lot less stressful when you know you don’t have to do it every day. You can arrange your schedule around doctor’s appointments and kids’ school schedules.board-management-software

PRO: Reduced Costs

For employers, a hybrid model can help save on rent and utilities—because there will only be a percentage of employees in the office on any given day, companies can downsize their office space.

CON: Hard to Stay Organized

When your daily routine varies, it can be hard to get and stay organized. From forgetting your laptop charger to not having your favorite mug, the logistics of working from both home and the office can be challenging.

CON: Mediocre Workstations

It can be hard to set up two separate workstations to be the most beneficial to productivity. Your desk at the office will never be exactly the same as your desk at home, which can be distracting. Plus, many hybrid models have unassigned workstations, so you might not sit in the same spot every time you go to the office.

CON: Increased Cyber Risk

When people are working in multiple locations, it increases the risk of cyber-attack and other data losses. Employees might need additional training in how to keep the company’s infrastructure secure.

After more than two years, many employees are starting to understand that it’s not really important where work gets done, just that it gets done. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to if and when people return to their offices—some industries can easily transition to fully remote, while that option is impossible for many others. One thing is for sure—where people work will never be the same.

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