Why the reported death of the office could be premature

Through absolute necessity many of us have worked from home for over 100 days.  We’ve mastered teleconferencing, adopted cloud based systems and seen too much of our colleagues homes on Zoom. I’ve read a lot of reports of a ‘new normal’ for large corporates and been told of a gloomy forecast for shared offices in the age of the Coronavirus.  Whilst there are merits to home working a seismic change isn’t reflected in my conversations with returning coworkers.  Our members have enjoyed some aspects of working in their houses however they also value having a separate workplace.  Here are some benefits of both home and office working and whilst everyone is unique there are some universal themes that might resonate with you.

Home working : Benefits

No commute to the office

Ability to work longer

More convenient for parents and carers

Greater productivity? ( quieter environment )

Less absenteeism

Office Working : Benefits

Better for team work and creative thinking

Important to build corporate culture

Separation between home and workspace

Office spaces can have more inspiring design than houses with improved lighting, the use of brighter colours and multiple spaces

Greater Productivity? ( less distractions from house mates and pets )

If we summarised the points above you could conclude that in broad terms employers can benefit from happier home workers.  This was evident in a 2014 study by the Chinese travel website Ctrip in 2014 (1) .  Half of their team worked remotely for 9 months whilst the other coworkers remained in the company office.  The results illustrated an increase in productivity by home workers above their peers.  This group also shared a greater happiness index and were less likely to leave the company.

Ctrip’s workers were employed in tele-conferencing and this could be classified as a service led role that suits remote workers.  More creative and collaborative roles would benefit from the shared office experience.  The issue of motivation is therefore quite personalised and could be attributable to the field of work that you are employed in.

A further debatable area surrounds what constitutes a ‘distraction’.  For some a cat or dog would be a really nice diversion as opposed to a work blocker.  Meanwhile many find it beneficial to work within a group of highly motivated kindred spirits in a coworking space. However, for some this could be off putting if they are unable to share the collective atmosphere.

The future of work could be a blend of home and office working.  Workers alternating days in the office, staggering shifts and mandatory company office days are some measures that businesses can adopt.  This should offer workers a suitable amount of flexibility and hopefully ensure that work and life balances are respected. One important point to note is that home working needs barriers and some structure so as to avoid over-working and employee burn-out.