What We’re Missing in the Work from Home Debate
We are in the equivalent of a massive game of employer-employee chicken.
“Everyone must return to the office on this date.”
“I will stop if they bring me back.
Who will blink first?
A survey of more than 200 New York-based C-Suite executives found that a whopping 76% believe working in person is critical to the bottom line. But leaders see resistance to bringing people back into the office. So, is there a trade-off? A hybrid solution? Maybe, but one key doesn’t fit all locks.
Employers who want full-time office workers need to consider recruitment, productivity and culture. Employees who wish to stay at home should be aware that working remotely can hamper their opportunities, their creativity and their limits.
Here’s an honest look at the trade-offs on each side of the great working-from-home debate.
Compromise of the employer
Economists have dubbed the current times as The big resignation—a phenomenon describing the record number of people quitting their jobs after COVID-19. I previously explained how work has been demoted as people reassess the place of a career in the larger framework of their lives.
But companies that embrace fully remote options are seeing growth (at least in the short term). Job postings mentioning full-time or part-time remote work saw seven times more applications than in-person roles. In the days after Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky scrapped the idea of location-based compensation, the company’s recruitment page received one million hits.
The loss of a salaried employee can cost a company 6-9 months salary in recruiting and training costs, and working from home can be considered a salary perk or bonus to help retain employees. Home office saves employees money on travel, parking, work clothes and meals away from home – the average savings could amount to an increase of $6,000. It might not hurt the retention of some employees, if companies can communicate this benefit in a way that doesn’t come across as insulting.
Employers: Consider productivity measures
When Elon Musk ordered Tesla employees to return to the office full-time, he was asked what he would say to an employee who thinks working in person is an “outdated concept”. Musk replied, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”
But is does this largely claim, or can certain tasks, and certain workers, be more productive at home? Gensler’s 2020 US Work from Home Survey found that experiences varied across generations, with baby boomers more likely to feel fulfilled at the end of the day and know what to expect. expected of them when working from home.
Being visible is not a measure of their productivity. Since the office hasn’t always been a great source of productivity, performance metrics need to be rethought and individuals need to be able to choose the tasks that will benefit everyone the most through their focus time at home. the House.
Employers: Think Culture
Many leaders I advise believe that getting everyone back into the office is the only way to restore and maintain their culture. While office events and Friday happy hour are absolutely beneficial for building camaraderie, I’ll reveal the key nuance: you can’t build culture while ignoring what interests your employees. If they really enjoy remote work, forcing them back into the office isn’t going to make a happy employee ready to engage with the office culture anyway. Kindergarteners don’t like being told what to do and how to do it; why would adult adults readily accept that they need constant supervision to be effective?
What if you updated office space to make it an advantage, turning your draconian policy into a purposeful brand differentiator? Two-by-four fluorescent fixtures have never created an inspiring office ambiance. Employee engagement is positively correlated with job satisfaction. So, updating your office design and amenities could entice your employees to want to to return to the office and then voluntarily build their culture themselves.
The most common hybrid arrangement I hear of is having employees report to the office three days a week; but it is the most arbitrary and potentially the least sensible compromise. One week per shift of intense, intentional connection would do more for the culture than half of each week together.
Among other benefits, it was nice not having to move around and take calls in your pajama bottoms, wasn’t it? But employees need to realize their opportunities, creativity, and the limits can be hampered by remote work.
Employees: Consider that your opportunities may diminish
One question I continually hear innovative companies ask is, “How can we ensure that people working remotely have the same opportunities?” The implication inherent in this question is that in-person workers have more prospects. Superiors tend to be traditionalists, who may (even subconsciously) think, “You’re here, I need you, and it’s easier than emailing a remote worker.”
But former Docusign CEO Dan Springer refused to hold people back in order to even the balance for remote workers. He realized the simple fact that collaborating with colleagues face to face leads to growth. Which is a charming irony, considering his business is built on the fact that you no longer need to sign things in person.
Being remote can make you more productive as an individual, but your long-term success depends on your network. Evidence shows that during the pandemic our network shrank – we connected with our team, but we weren’t connected across departments and organizations. Consider that when working from home, you may miss inserting your voice into the conversation, you may be perceived as less valuable, and as a result, you may miss promotion opportunities.
Employees: think about creativity
Studies indicate that creativity is hampered when your physical perspective is narrowed. Sitting staring at a small screen at home has crippled creative ideation. Walking, going out and collaborating broadens your perspective and makes creative problem solving easier.
“Creative ideation is that frenetic spark that occurs when a group of people are together, face to face, beers in hand, pacing in front of a messy whiteboard,” said Elie Goral, executive director of creation at the Color creative agency.
This is not only imperative for advertising agencies. Creative problem solving, fresh perspective and innovative solutions increase your value in any industry.
Employees: consider the limits
Before, there were two distinct spheres of life: work and home. The separation of the distance between the office and the driveway allowed us to close a chapter and a sphere of life, and during our journey, to mentally move into a different sphere to prepare ourselves for life at home.
Space tells us what to do. Sleep experts say you shouldn’t watch TV or scroll through your phone in bed. The bed should tell you emotionally, mentally and physically that it’s time to sleep. The office should tell us to work; home should show us our familiar relationships and responsibilities. By having our work and home spheres physically in the same place, both pulling us constantly and unconsciously, our brain experiences stress-related symptoms. There is always a cost.
By working from home, you may be making it harder to work AND harder to be at home.
In 2020, our world came to a screeching halt. Non-essential offices closed and we struggled to balance our kids’ algebra while navigating that important Zoom meeting. Hopefully we’ve made room to process this upheaval from the ordinary (if not, I wrote a great diary for it).
But over time, the pandemic has shifted remote work from a necessity to a norm some don’t want to give up. Research is varied on the benefits AND barriers of working from home. It is a complex problem with no single solution.
Lincoln, a river navigation expert, explained how Union ships made their way through Mississippi during the Civil War. It was too foggy to see very far, so they used point-to-point navigation – they only navigated to where they could see, then stopped. From there they recalibrated their bearings, later navigating to the next location they could see. They never sailed the whole river in fog, just to the next point, then waited for more visibility. As a result, they never touched the shore or ran aground.
Maybe companies don’t have to write their return-to-office policies in stone just yet. Perhaps there can be understanding, listening, nuance, and flexibility in every endeavor to tread carefully and humbly correct course when needed.