What does life after COVID-19 look like for working professionals – and when will offices reopen?
Various reports will tell you that up to 70% of employers have some type of plan to ensure workers return to the office, at least part of the time, while others suggest a new way of life. So what do employees think about returning to work and giving up their remote office space? Well, studies have shown at least 40% want to stay put and continue working from home rather than returning to work in an office, 39% would favor returning to working in an office, and 17% currently feel safer working from home during COVID-19. According to McKinsey Global Institute, 80% of professionals surveyed said that they enjoy working from home. Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report shows that 97.6% of professionals surveyed would enjoy a hybrid schedule for the duration of their career, with part of the time spent working at the office and part of the time working from home. In fact, a recent worldwide poll showed that more than 50% of employees would think about quitting if they were not given a more flexible schedule, and of those polled, more than three quarters were happy employees who were satisfied at their jobs.
So let’s weigh the pros and cons of working from home versus working from the office and see whether returning to a physical location (the norm in life before COVID) is still worth it.
The Pros of Working from Home
The coronavirus pandemic redefined office life and elevated the workforce percentage that does their jobs from home to about 70%; this number has declined as more and more workers return to the office. While many corporations are dead-set on having their workers return, others examine whether it may be more advantageous to continue with a work-from-home schedule or partial work-from-home schedule for their employees.
Working from home has a list of perks valuable to both employees and employers. Let’s examine the benefits of home office work.
No Commute to Work
Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s research concluded that the commute is the worst part of our workday, but most of us didn’t need Kahneman to confirm that.
A long commute (commuting an hour to work or more) can increase stress, throw your work-life balance out of balance, and reduce time with family, friends, and pets. Commuting can also drastically elevate your monthly spending with gas, tolls, car maintenance, car repairs, and electricity bills. Commutes take away from hobbies, exercise, and healthy eating. Heavy traffic and long hours can also be dangerous, affecting your mental health and physical health while increasing the risk of a car accident. There are also upsides to a commute, which we will discuss later.
Better Work-Life Balance
Working from home can ensure a better work-life balance. Without unnecessary commuting and a longer time spent getting ready in the morning, working from home opens up the possibility to take additional ‘me time’ and family time. You will be able to spend more quality time with your partner, children, pets, and friends. Working from home can also open up more time for hobbies, exercise, meditation, and learning, which is why you will find many employees not wanting to work in an office any longer.
Having the Office that You Want
Light a candle. Buy a good chair. Play your music. Mirror that tropical fish screensaver onto your 4K TV. Heck, light a fire if it’s cold. Choose the office décor that defines you. Many of us can build a better dream office at home than what we have at the actual office. With open office plans or small cubicles, your abilities are limited. Tailoring your office environment at home to your unique specifications can have professional and mental benefits like increased creativity, productivity, and happiness that can elevate your overall office experience.
While working at home at the start of the pandemic may have required additional discipline and experimentation until you found your rhythm, you can now focus on a morning routine that works for you. Jeff Bezos enjoys breakfast with his family every day before work; maybe now you can too. Perhaps you now have time to work out in the morning – yoga, a run; lifting weights – exercise can improve mental and physical well-being and boost productivity.
I started keeping a daily planner and gratitude journal. I also make sure to meditate for at least ten minutes right before starting my workday. With many of us rushing off to busy morning commutes, we discard essential things like family time, a well-balanced meal, and physical and mental health.
Commercial Real Estate Costs
Companies can reduce their physical office space or eliminate the office altogether and go fully remote. Instead of long-term leases and large offices, businesses can rethink those high real estate prices and confining lease agreements to opt for more affordable new office alternatives. Businesses can now negotiate more cost-effective or flexible lease terms and find alternate working spaces, utilizing short-term co-working spaces or a hoteling office space strategy when needed. Companies can decide to own smaller office spaces instead of renting larger ones or ditch the office entirely. In-person meetings can be reduced and hosted on virtual platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, public locations, or downsized office space. Ultimately, this should elevate year-over-year profits for businesses.
Cost of living is anything but even throughout the globe, and working from home allows employees to work from anywhere. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some employees relocated away from cities to more rural areas that offered additional space, lower real estate costs, and a better overall cost of living. With remote work, one can accept a job in New York City but doesn’t necessarily have to pay New York City prices; quality of life goes up. Employees can now work outside, from a mountain cabin, an Airbnb in a different country, a cheaper city, or a house with simply more square feet and acreage. Mandating that employees return to work as the coronavirus wanes can create problems like longer commutes or relocating back to a business’s expensive city.
In addition to the locational and financial benefits offered to employees through remote work, employers have a broader range of talent at their disposal. Employers can hire the perfect person for the job, even if that person doesn’t happen to live in the same location as that business’s physical office.
The best thing to do is evaluate how your team is doing. Has productivity increased or decreased since your employees started working from home? Are deadlines being met or exceeded? Has the quality of work gone up or down? Are customers happy or upset?
Multiple studies have shown increased work productivity since employees started working from home, including one by Great Place to Work Institute, Inc. with more than 800,000 people surveyed.
You can also have your employees take a survey of their own to see if they would prefer returning to the office full-time, working a hybrid schedule, or a full-time work-from-home schedule.
According to McKinsey Global Institute research, 41% of employees now working from home say that they are more productive than they were at the office, and 28% say they are as productive, for a total of almost 70% who believe that their productivity has remained the same or increased since moving to a home office.
There are less distractions for some working from home, making it easier to focus on the tasks at hand before stopping for the day.
Here’s a tip: get ready in the morning, much the same way you would if you were going into the office; shower, dress up, and go to your designated WFH space instead of a bed, couch, or media room. This ritual mentally prepares you for a workday and separates your productive hours from your rest and relaxation. Multiple studies conclude that you must differentiate your working hours from your non-working hours to be successful.
Safety & Comfort
Many office workers still feel safer at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has not ceased, but we are now getting a better handle on it. Still, with new COVID variants and the population split on how to handle coronavirus, many now doing office work at home are happy to keep doing so. Companies are doing their best to ensure a high vaccination rate for workplace health before having their employees return to work. Still, most will not go so far as to enforce mandatory vaccinations, as they could have a lawsuit on their hands. Those who are not vaccinated are often asked to wear masks, and additional precautions like desk spacing and sanitizing are taken. Masks can be uncomfortable, couple that with the mental discomfort of not feeling safe in your workspace for reasons including illnesses, workplace violence, and weakened social skills, and working from home could be the better solution.
The Cons to Working from Home
Several of the same things people enjoy about working from home can be seen as negatives to someone else, including the lack of a commute, reduced productivity, and the absence of coworkers. Let’s examine.
No Commuting to Work
Psychologist Blake Ashforth and two colleagues wrote that “the commute is actually a relatively efficient way of simultaneously facilitating a physical and psychological shift between roles.” If professionals have no separation between work and home, the lines blur, burnout potentiality increases, and productivity decreases. A short commute (30 minutes or less) gives us the ability to prepare for our workday and leave it behind at the end of the day when coming home from work, so we return refreshed. Of course, plenty of us have found ways to do this without a commute, but a percentage of the workforce may still find the commute advantageous, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Some find working from home more distracting than the office. A US survey by JDP shows that 54% of American participants found increased distractions at their home office than at their previous physical locations.
Meetings, Comradery, & Mentorship
Digital forms of communication will never replace in-person contact and the psychological benefits of face-to-face interactions. Some business owners feel that spontaneous brainstorming at the office is seriously lessened when working from home, as is mentorship, camaraderie, valuable meetings, and talent development. Social isolation, depression, and stress can also increase, leading to unhappy employees and decreased productivity, which can be detrimental to a business.
What Companies Are Doing
Companies are divided, and each workplace has its own way of rethinking office culture for the future; some want everyone to return to work, others are happy for their employees to keep working from home, and some are recommending various hybrid schedules for offices of the future. More traditional or conservative companies would prefer a repopulated office, while more progressive industries are open to alternative ways of working as long as productivity does not waver.
Cardiff University Professor, Alan Felstead, comments that the tech industry will have much to gain if people remain working from home, so many are leading by example. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook wants employees back at least three days a week but has received pushback from his staff.
Some jobs require onsite attendance, others do not, and some only partially. Companies must do what is ultimately right for their businesses and staffs while not succumbing to groundless personal preferences. Let the numbers speak for themselves; if your business is thriving with some or all of your employees working from home, why demand a return? Alternatively, if your business is suffering from its staff at home, perhaps a return is what is needed.
Ease your employees back into office culture with a soft return to minimize anxieties; start with two to three days a week, see how that goes, and work your way up from there if you feel a full-time office schedule is necessary.
Reach out to employees, customers, and more with exclusive products from CardsDirect.com.