Working Remote vs. In Office

2021.09.23.

The evergreen debate about remote vs in office is often centred around where the worker is going to be more productive. But in some ways this is a wrongheaded approach. The real question is which space is better for the worker to feel focused on their tasks. 

Being able to focus will always increase productivity. But it should always be kept in mind that productivity in the traditional sense has been used as a measuring metric for the normal 8-hour day. Working remotely allows for a completely different attitude towards the working day and with focus and increased productivity, it means that the employee is able to achieve more within less time. One of the problems that continues to persist are dated and outmoded attitudes within modern businesses. The major one being that the whole 8-hour day should be used, as the business is technically paying for those hours. 

Every study has shown that remote work is a much better option and the changes in work productivity are profound. Not only are remote workers more productive, but they're also more engaged and more innovative. Any company that has a remote working policy will find that not only are the working conditions more attractive to employees, but there will also be a huge reduction in worker turnover. Many young employees today have an expectation that they will be able to find a better-life work balance than, for example, their parents had to put up with. We should also keep in mind that businesses no longer need to rent expensive office space or have employees suffer the daily commute.

Though we can thank the Covid-19 virus for social distancing and the greater introduction of the home office, remote working has been on the up and up over the last couple of decades. We can also thank communications technologies and the internet, which has made working remotely so much easier. We think it's the mark of an agile organisation that can promote remote work, with the realisation that it's only beneficial for the business.

With the Covid restrictions gradually being lifted, we have seen many large organizations insisting that all their employees return to the office environment. These business leaders cite the ”all hands on deck” and better collaboration comes from working as one unit within the office. We're sure they are being a touch economical with the truth. Unfortunately the old-fashioned idea that the boss is paying for those hours, not necessarily for the work done within them, is what drives many businesses to insist their employees make employees return to a centralised workplace. It's really all about control. 

Balance is Best

If you take the results of a recent Gallup poll that shows only 30% of workers are engaged, irrespective of their working environment, then you might wonder what the other 70% are up to? Looking over both locations of employment, it's hard to say that one is definitely better than the other. A big problem is that we tend to think in a rather blanket manner. That there is a sort of “one fit for all” across all the different employees. Many things can affect the task at hand, including the mood and the role that the employer needs to play. There can be workers who have private offices in their workplace and yet are supremely unproductive. On the other hand, those who choose to work from home can find many forms of distraction, be they the children, the pets or simply frequent fridge surfing for snacks.

And this brings us back to our original idea. Productivity isn't the correct metric to measure anything by. Rather we should be using the idea of which space provides a greater focus during those periods of work. On this basis,  bosses should always be considering what their employees would like. It's quite possible to have an engaging experience in the office and yet lack focus. The question really is where is it best that the employee can concentrate on what needs to be done?

Cultivating a workplace experience

What are the basic problems with office work, especially corporate offices, is that it's difficult to just disappear and be able to be left alone with your tasks. There will be forever an endless list of interruptions. Sometimes there's a space problem and a cultural problem. All of these can affect our ability to concentrate. Still, if we compare office culture today with 50 years ago, we can see that there are some huge organic changes that have taken place and continue to do so. Employers are more aware of personal space, of the need to meet and socialise. This goes hand in hand with the very notion of work.

Thanks to the digital age, we can find one or more workers who have, what are essentially “portfolio careers” as they work for multiple companies. The rise of the gig economy has led to young workers being able to demand more flexibility. Expectation has become reality.

Mandating your workers to do certain things can be the beginnings of a slippery slope. If you want your workers to return back to the office then you need to give them the proper incentives. Simply demanding that they do so, will only lead to resentment and people will leave. A boss should ask himself what experience he is providing for the workers that's going to compete with them being at home. Why is the office a worthwhile destination that any worker should spend an hour commuting to and from? When you can find the answer to these questions, then you’ll be able to provide a great working environment for those that come into the office. At the same time you should consider letting those who wish to work remotely to do so. Then there's the happy medium of those choosing to work from home and yet from time to time, coming into the office for meetings and for social occasions. As we previously mentioned, it's all about finding the correct balance.


 

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