With 42% of the American workforce currently working from home, it’s clear that the pandemic has fundamentally altered the way many individuals work, and has challenged preconceived notions of a ‘work environment’. Both individuals and corporations have begun to notice that work can be completed and maintained at a similar caliber whether employees are physically present in the office or not – leading to a number of questions and reports about the necessity of having staff in the same building full-time. It turns out, working from home provides a myriad of benefits – most obviously, the lack of a commute, but also including (and not limited to) healthier breaks, an increase in desired social time, increase in productivity, as well as more time for ‘deep work’ – focusing without distractions on demanding tasks.
While working for home may be the current norm for many individuals, there are a number of companies noticing the benefits and shifting to a work from home model, to be continued even after this pandemic ends. New corporations are announcing support weekly for partial/full remote work – companies such as Twitter, Square, Facebook, Reddit, JP Morgan, and Google (along with dozens more) have transitioned to some degree of remote work, whether it be fully remote or providing employees the choice between remote/office work. This shift benefits the companies almost as much as the individuals. Opening availabilities for remote work increases the pool of potential employees, and as a result more talented individuals who previously would not be able to travel to the office on a daily basis are able to be included, benefiting coworkers and the overall company. It also reduces costs for the company, be it through rent for physical buildings, in-office software and network capabilities, and increases in employee retention. Finally, the switch allows for employees to be judged based on the quality of work done, not necessarily the quantity. Rather than a manager judging an employee’s abilities based on the time spent sitting at their desk, they instead see solely the work produced – leading to a less stressful environment, less time wasted trying to appear busy, and more productive input on the actual work itself. In this case, less really is more. Being able to focus and prioritize important projects and give them the polish required rather than trying to appear productive working on grunt work results in better results professionally, and a less stressful, office-politics free environment personally.
Obviously, despite the benefits incurred from working remotely, some professions simply can’t adopt a full work from home environment. While there are a number of companies that have transitioned to fully remote, there are also those providing partial and optional remote plans based on necessity. As there will always be a degree of projects, meetings, or deals that must be completed physically, in a face-to-face setting, there will naturally be a need for in person meetings. Whether it be for collaboration, efficient training or mentoring, or building/growing relationships, for many professionals the office environment cannot be entirely phased out, but rather shift to a hybrid-style where individuals have the freedom to work from home when beneficial but maintain the ability to conduct face-to-face meetings as needed. This hybridization means that, for the most part, physical offices are only required for important matters and less-so for daily work activities. It also requires adaptation. It takes innovation and ingenuity to adjust to a disruption of the norm, and as such both employees and management need to change mindsets from ‘the way things have been done’ to ‘the way things are now’.
Communication is a critical part of this ensuring employees stay on the same page and remain productive even without continual direct oversight. Further, it requires respecting the time of said employees. While a continuous stream of video meetings and memos/emails requiring responses may show that the employee is indeed ‘working’, each of these is ultimately a distraction, and planning ahead for these meetings causes an unnecessary amount of stress. Forcing employees to reply, be available, or come into the office unplanned/with short notice detracts from the quality of work done as these events all require planning and serve to take the employees focus off the work they are currently doing, resulting in having to reacclimatize themselves to whatever they were doing prior. The shift to constant accessibility can be exhausting. Receiving work-related calls, emails, or messages outside of the traditional work hours can be a stressful experience, and further erodes the segmentation of the work/life balance – and while some individuals are fully capable of maintaining a balance with integration, many of us who switch into different gears outside of the office struggle with separation while being constantly on-call.
Overall, this shift in realizations of what can be done at home compared to the office has been one of the greatest social experiments I’ve been able to observe, and will continue to play out as massive corporations adjust (or refuse to) in changing times. With the rise of hybrid and fully remote positions, the need for a fully dedicated location diminishes, and instead the focus should shift to on-demand style meetings and conferences. Rather than paying for the upkeep, maintenance, property leasing, and other costs associated with a physical building, companies can instead pay for offices, rooms, and workspace on an as needed basis. By renting space from Workzones, companies can continue to invest in and support their employees, while also adjusting to the current state of business and providing inclusive environments for whatever situation is at hand. Coworking locations can serve to help employees unable to work at home be it due to children, internet connectivity, space issues while also reducing the costs of property and fees incurred along with it. With the capability to host in-person meetings for anywhere between 2 to 75 people, Workzones makes productive meetings easy and convenient. Furthermore, between coworking plans and private offices individuals can work in a distraction free professional environment conducive to their needs!