This month, Microsoft told their staff they won’t ever have to go into the office every day ever again if they don’t want to. The world of work is changing, and flexible remote working is the order of the day. That made us curious about what people think of this new work environment. We asked our friends, partners and clients to take part in a poll which asks the question: “If your employer gives you the option to go to the office, will you go?” And these are the results.
Interesting huh! That motivated us to crawl around the web a bit and collate a list of the Pros and Cons of going to the office. Have a read and let us know what you think!
Get back to a sense of normality
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down for most of us. We’ve inherited a new vocabulary of terms that nobody had heard of until this year, social distancing has made ordinary social interactions plain weird, and things we used to take for granted like popping into a shop have become something we have to ‘visualize.’ The general consensus from everyone we spoke to was that the No.1 reason many want to get back to the office is to get back to a feeling of normality in at least one part of their daily lives. Even the short walk to the office from the local bus stop or underground station through the busy streets of a bustling city can do weirdly positive things to our psyche to get our souls ready to take on the world.
Mental health and enjoying the company of colleagues
Working in a home office that doubles for a bedroom or kitchen isn’t the best place in the world to meet other humans other than the tribe that happens to live with you under the same roof! Going to the office has the obvious benefit of meeting other people. Humans are a very social beast. Interactions with others are good for our mental health.
Steal some energy from your office buddies
While some jobs, such as copywriting or coding, demand high levels of concentration and isolation, there are jobs that demand a high energy level, like inside sales, that are harder to perform in isolation. Hearing the office vibe around the desk and blending this sense of activity with the knowledge that others are in earshot can make it easier for some to get their jobs done.
Benefit from those ad hoc watercooler moments and interact with people from other departments
One aspect of office life that’s hard for tools like Slack, Skype and Zoom to replicate are those watercooler moments in the office when you bump into someone else you’ve never met or rarely met who happens to know something you don’t. It’s difficult to put an ROI value on watercooler moments but most would agree, sometimes it’s who you know not what you know that makes the difference when overcoming problems or coming up with new ideas.
Learn things from others you won’t find in a manual
Extending from the point above, remote working doesn’t make it easy for new starters to get to grips with how hierarchies, structures, systems and cultures work when they’ve no real experience of ‘the office.’ Much of this on-the-job knowledge – such as useful go-to people, workarounds to problem systems and processes, knowing who to go to if you want a signature, etc. – well, there are those who argue, you just need to be there.
Help the boss to know who you are
Thankfully it’s an aging attitude that will hopefully die out very soon, but one opinion of ‘how to get on’ in your career is to always be visible to your boss so they can see you put in a shift. One would like to think that in the 2000’s, bosses are more professional and better educated than previous generations that apparently used to expect their workforce to behave like creepy surfs. This ‘be in the office before your boss and leave afterwards’ attitude has done nothing to discourage long-hours working in economies like the USA and UK, but it continues to be a perspective on career progression that some individuals hold dear.
Boost levels of ideation
No individual holds a patent for the best ideas. Work in a good team for any length of time and you realize that ideas can leap up from anywhere, and sometimes, it can be something completely left of center – such as an apple falling from a tree (remember Sir Isaac Newton?) – that can inspire a new way of looking at an old problem. Interactions that just happen can spark ideas that are difficult to originate when everyone is working alone in their kitchen!
Stay away from the kitchen!
Speaking about kitchens, it’s not always easy to remain committed to a diet plan when there’s food available around your desk all day. One of the slightly more off-the-wall reasons people tell us they’d be happy to get back go to the office is because the kitchen larder is much further away.
New opportunities to gig work or hustle
Ever fancied turning your baking hobby or your teenage guitar skills into a business? Not every job is fulfilling. Sometimes, it’s just a wage check. Working from home makes it easier for people to reconfigure their career path towards activities more in tune their own interests and passions. We know that the gig economy has grown exponentially since the lockdown. While some of this is about adding a little more income to pay the bills, others are jumping into micro-task working and knowledge portals (etc.) to harness or develop their skills. It’s not just people with no other work who are moving into the gig economy or starting up their own business. In the UK, research suggests that a quarter of the workforce today have a side hustle as well as their own job.
Academics at Henley Business School have revealed a growing trend in ‘side hustles’ which shows that as many as 1 in 4 people in the UK are running at least one business project alongside their main day job, contributing an estimated £72 billion to the UK economy.
What we think about the PROs
In normal circumstances, our team tells us that going to an office can be good for the soul, great for the diet plan, and it’s even possibly helpful to progress your career. But these are not usual times, and everyone is concerned about the risks attached to leaving home to venture into an office every day. We think the survey results are pretty consistent with what can be expected post-COVID when the re-balancing between office and home working takes place. Yes, people are getting used to home working, and they CAN do it, but a lot don’t want to, while others are concerned about what it might do to restrict their career opportunities.
Avoid the commute and save the planet!
Remote working might not be good for the soul, but the facts show it’s much better for the planet. Since the lock-down began, we know that carbon emissions have fallen sharply. As one article published by the BBC puts it, ‘there’s clear water in the Venice canals, blue skies over Delhi and wild animals are roaming boldly in locked-down cities.’
Improve work-life balance
People have talked about home-work balance for years. The concept of ‘flexible working’ has been around for over a decade, yet until this year, for many the opportunity to work from home – even for a small part of the week – was until now a pipedream. We all of us probably know someone who’s been told by their boss or company that they’re always expected to be in the office for their job no-matter what. Being at home can be extremely beneficial to home life, and for many it offers new job opportunities to blend home and work life in better ways. For others, they could not do work without being at home. In the U.S. alone there are thought to be 39.8 million caregivers and this actual number is thought to represent a fraction of those who have part-time care giving responsibilities to look after others in their households.
Get more done?
The court is still out on whether working from home improves or reduces productivity. Modern tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack, Facebook Workplace and Zoom are making it so much easier to get things done remotely. With reliable internet access from the home, cloud-based systems and Virtual Private Networks making it relatively straightforward to hook up to office systems, it does make you wonder what you can’t do from the comfort of your sofa.
From a practical perspective, it’s not a difficult commute to shift from the bedroom to the kitchen while still wearing your loungewear without the precursory layers of makeup required for looking presentable in an office environment! And while your dog – or the kids – might kick up a fuss occasionally and require a little calming attention, these moments represent a fraction of the work disruption that happens as the result of commuting, meetings, walking between offices, extended watercooler moments and coffee breaks – because you’ve got more people to gossip with (not that you do of course!).
More work opportunities for some
Some elements of the future workforce – such as working mums, overseas workers and part-time carers – are actually benefitting from this dramatic change in the way businesses operate. In some respects, NOT going to the office levels the playing field. It means people who can’t get to an office are suddenly EVERY BIT AS CAPABLE of getting a job done. That’s good for people tied to the home for social or carer reasons, and for people working in other territories that have the skills but (previously) none of the access to these work locations.
What we think about the CONs
Seeing images of clear skies and waterways during the lockdown is enough to make most of us reflect on the damage daily commutes and frequent business flights make to the health of the planet. While few would want to see us go back to old and bad ways that destroy the planet we depend on, there can be no doubt how isolating and mentally challenging working from home can be for many. For businesses, the anticipated productivity downside of remote working hasn’t really materialized, and it would appear business leaders are drifting towards a new normal that embraces flexible working for at least part of the week. Hopefully, economies will find a more thoughtful balance between office and home working which means we can do away with long-hours cultures, the insistence that every worker must be at their desk before the boss arrives, and that working from home isn’t seen as skiving off after all. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about where work happens, and instead to focus the debate more on outcomes and how work-life can positively contribute physical, mental and societal health.
So, what do YOU think?
We’d really like to know what you think about office and home working. Do you want to go back to the office? Are there other reasons we’ve not mentioned at the top of your list of PROs and CONs? Get in touch and let us know.