Why Return to the Office if You Can Do Your Job at Home
Only 10% of the people who can do their jobs at home want to go to the office five days a week.
About 50% of the current workforce can do their jobs from home, over 60 million people.
“Of those 60 million potential WFH employees, a staggering 30% said they would prefer to “never” come into the office during the week.” Gallup
Why return to the office if you can do your job at home:
#1. You pay attention.
Putting on real clothes instead of PJs helps you pay attention. Imagine what going to the office could do.
“Working from home increases your risk of making mistakes.” Daily Mail
Strategic doses of solitude increase creativity. You might come up with a brilliant idea on a walk, for example. But the best way to generate great ideas is solitude AFTER you’ve generated ideas WITH others. Fast Company
One person suggests X. Another suggests Y. Before you know it you have A, Q, and Z.
It’s easier to do the right thing when someone is watching. BBC
An encouraging zoom call is helpful. But real flesh and blood is better.
People will forget you if they don’t see you. Recency Effect
Noticing is key to connecting, encouraging, and giving feedback.
Dedicate time to building vibrant office culture.
The most important thing about us is the way we treat each other while we do the work.
- Maximize the advantages of working face-to-face.
- Provide flexibility.
- Make time to connect with people. I miss people even though I see them on video conference.
- Provide face-to-face development and challenge.
- Have fun.
Some thrive working from home. There are many opportunities for them.
What would make an office culture worth returning to?
Agree to all you’ve said. Also, there is a sense of community when people are in the office. We not only think of ourselves but others too. We live in a symbiotic environment that makes us strive. Think of living in NYC where there are mom and pop shops that rely not just on tourist but workers who commute to work. If people just stay at home, how would they survive? Do you want to shoulder them (I.e., stimulus) for their lack of income while you bulk up of more savings on your pocket (I.e. lack of commute) when they are the ones that seek work and financialindependence? Yes, people worry about safety but can we not do it together and have a real interactive social life once again by sharing each other’s presence? We are a social being, born to thrive together and not survive alone. On a lighter note, yes, wearing a buttoned pants keep oneself in good shape. It makes you accountable for yeh at you take in your mouth.
A very timely and pertinent post, Dan.
Decades ago, I experienced an “almost” version of “work from home.” I was working as a deputy sheriff in the patrol division of my agency. We customarily reported for work before each shift at a centrally located precinct station for what was referred to in many agencies as “roll call,” but for us was a “shift briefing.” Officers had individually assigned vehicles that we drove to and from the precinct as well as during our shifts During the 1979 fuel crisis, someone had the idea that we could save a lot of gasoline by doing away with the shift briefing and reporting directly to our patrol beats instead. We would leave our homes in time to drive to our beats and report our “in service” status over the radio to the dispatcher and our shift supervisor. During the shift, we only saw other deputies whose beats adjoined ours, and the shift supervisor when he would meet with us in ones or twos to pick up reports and other paperwork. Instead of reporting back to the station at the end of the shift, deputies from several beats would meet to hand off remaining paperwork to be taken to the station by one who was designated for the task.
To be brief, the resulting reduction in contact and interaction with colleagues was devastating to morale and to the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork within our division, as well as to communications and information-sharing. Thankfully this procedure only lasted less than a year before we went back to the old way of doing things. I understand that with the increased reliance on in-car computers and “paperless reporting,” many agencies are using similar procedures now, and I can’t help but wonder what is being lost in the process. I can’t imagine a work environment in which I had minimal or no face-to-face contact with co-workers.
What would make an office culture worth returning to?
Great question, fortunate for many of us (in my eyes) we never made it home to work. We were able to maintain our position in the workforce in the real world.
Not suire if this is a one size fits all, comradery is one that hits home, another is when we go home we are home and thats were we can be ourselves. If we bring home “work duties” it upsets the flow of the household. Leave work at work and come home to be home.
Granted circumstances may dictate other choices beyond ones control such as being on call 24/7 can make things difficult.
I too am quilty of answering clients aftyer hours because they are clients and showing them they are important is a fetish I developed because i was one of those people on call 24/7 for 19 years, it becomes a way of life. It was my public service speaking to me as my duty. If our services were needed we responded (we were a public utility).
So return to office to keep life separate from work. “if that’s possible”?
Sometimes we just have to shutdown as difficult as it is.’Just say no, I’m home now? Seems cruel and selfish.
You don’t need an office to wear real clothes, go for a creative walk, or do these other things to improve work. None of these are inherent to an office
I agree with your points… to a point. I think for return to work, the “hybrid model” is optimal (the company I work for happens to agree). I would posit there are some of us (I’m sure I’m not alone) the dress for work every day even if I’m only sitting in my own office at home, we do the right thing regardless of if anyone has “eyes” on us and take the time to make the connections on a daily basis. There are some of us who had long commutes that require driving, for me it was 3 hours of my day, having that time back to work and more able to manage my time is of more value than anything I could gain from being back in the office 5 days a week. If we empower our employees to work in a way that best fits their life, we will almost certainly get their best performance.
Building a firm’s culture is best done in person.
The other thing that is critical to success is leadership. It is important to see good and bad leaders sometimes to become one yourself.
I have a team that crosses 2 states in the US, and 2 countries outside the US. For my team, everyone working from home has been a huge advantage. An example of that is eveyone on the call. If everyone is on the call, the conversation is much better and we are not struggling to get input from those that are ‘not in the room’.
As a leader, I have given more thought to assignments and I believe been more fair in dividing up work. This may or may not have happened had I been in the office with some of my team. However, I do feel that working from home has given me a better overall perspective.
While I do agree that face to face time is awesome. I am one of those that like the hybrid model. I have found that the over the phone after a face to face works just as well. I like to use the face to face time to get to know a person and/or be creative, e.g. draw ideas out on the board.
At the end of the day, I hire a person because I believe they can do the job. Not based on where they are located or what ‘in person’ time they can commit to. I have not had the issues mentioned in this article with me or my team.
Normally I am a huge fan of your advice Dan. I try to live much of it and I regularly share it with others. I have worked remotely for about 1/2 of my career and for the first time I feel like one of your post is off the mark.
– paying attention is mostly about listening – that can be done in any format. Remotely it is often about asking probing questions, just like in person.
– Creativity does require interaction with others – I’ve led innovation sessions where I was the only one remote and I’ve led innovation sessions where everyone is remote.
– Accountability is easier when someone is watching. Nobody gets watched more than remote colleagues because historical ‘common sense’ wisdom suggests they are not as productive as on site colleagues even when data says otherwise. Even at my company special approval is needed for remote workers. We have to prove productivity.
– Encouragement can be given and received anyway from anywhere. Haven’t you ever received a hand written note that really touched you? That note was not face to face.
– Noticing does not require physical seeing. Nobody forgets the superstar on the team. What gets you noticed is both what you do and how you do it. Neither of these things require physical presence. Both require leadership. Leaders move people they’ve never met all the time.
– As a result of the pandemic, many companies are now figuring out how to develop a vibrant culture that includes remote employees. In fact I was participating in an innovation session this week on just that topic.
There are good reasons for going into an office and good reasons to remain remote. Neither of these positions is correct for all people or all companies. If I’ve misunderstood your intent then I apologize. I still believe you are brilliant and I am thankful that I get to read your advice.
I think Dan is more on the mark than you think. You are fortunate enough to work for an organization that understands remote supervision and leadership (which is really what this is about rather than the work itself). However, for many of us, we went home for what was supposed to be a week or two and is now almost 20 months. Few of us had or were given the tools to supervise our staff remotely; we had to figure it out on the fly and hope we were getting it right.
Yes, folks are productive, whether they work from home or in the office. But from what I have seen, the quality has dropped. Folks are making sloppy errors, not because they are working from home but because they are feeling disconnected from the work and the organization. Which gets us back to the supervisor, who needs to get folks connected again. And that is easier when folks are in-person than when they are remote.
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This seems very generalized. There are some jobs that work quite well from home. Also working from home does not equal never interacting with the public. It takes a leadership personality to find your own motivation, not need to be accountable to someone seeing you and dressing appropriately because you are often on virtual meetings and you know it helps the mindset. Because I have worked from home for over 8 years and cover a regional area of my state (have done this same thing in two states) I don’t have an office to go to. Colleagues are spread out around the state and we have had to learn how to collaborate, communicate, be creative in all the things one might do at the office. I still spend time on the road interacting but home is my office. There are advantages of being in an office (usually better internet and cell service for one) but frankly I have far less disruptions, greater productivity, and great collaboration when its needed. Its definitely not for those who lack self starting skills, motivation, creativity.
There is nothing magical about the office (says the person who has had 9 offices in 7 years). It’s about the relationships. There is also nothing magical about work clothes. As a person with ADHD, I work better when I don’t have the distractions that often times comes from being in the office, such as people walking by my door, distractions during meetings, and clothes that annoy me. Like some of the others have said, I have staff in multiple locations, so wherever I am, I am remote to someone. I used to lose a couple of hours a day to commuting between offices for meetings, I’m not going back to that. It doesn’t make sense to sit in an office with my door closed to be in Zoom meetings for the majority of the day, and still not have face-to-face interactions with my staff.