This article was originally published by Adrienne Guerrero on LinkedIn.
Recently I’ve noticed a heated debate going on in my newsfeed. As the pandemic transformed the way we live and work, many businesses had to quickly adjust their remote work policies – a decision with both benefits and drawbacks. The conversations around when (or whether) to return to the office have been complex as professionals on both sides have valid points.
On one hand you have employers, many of whom are paying for expensive office space and want to return to a sense of normalcy (whatever that is anymore!), where employees can have in-person meetings and the office water cooler (or soda machine) becomes a gathering place again. On the other hand, you have employees who feel they are the most productive working remotely and are happy to get their drinks from their own refrigerator (maybe while letting the dog out or tossing in a load of laundry)!
Working in the office has many benefits: it can help improve communication, foster collaboration among employees, it’s easier to call an impromptu meeting or brainstorm when your employees are gathered in one place, and it helps foster company culture. And some people are more productive in an office setting where they might be free from household distractions, can bounce ideas off colleagues, and have the resources they need at their fingertips.
There are also many benefits to working remotely. Many people are more productive at home without the distractions of those same colleagues bouncing ideas off them (you see that Catch 22?). With fewer meetings to attend and fewer distractions, they are better able to focus on the work, leading to increased productivity. According to Global Workplace Analytics businesses lose $600 billion a year as a result of distraction in the workplace.
The personal time gains are also significant – without added commutes employees have more time for work, themselves, and their families. This is especially important given the high cost of housing which has forced many employees to move farther from work, increasing their commute times. Working from home provides flexibility which improves work/life balance. The results are higher productivity, higher commitment and motivation to work, and lower absenteeism.
Managers are tasked with understanding what employees want and then balancing that with what is best for the company. No small task!
If your company is considering returning staff to the office, even part time, it is essential to include employee input in the decision-making process. Failure to do this can result in employee resistance, increased turnover, and disengagement. When doing this, make sure you:
When companies offer systems of support, understanding and flexibility, employees are more receptive to the benefits of working from the office. This should be viewed as an opportunity to enhance collaboration, reinforce company culture, and increase communication and understanding between leaders, colleagues, and customers.
Good luck in your endeavor to determine the right way to return employees to the office. Keep your people in mind first and the best decisions will come to you.