2020 has seen a huge shift in work patterns. Before March, if you had asked most people if they would rather work in an office or from home, I think a lot of people would have chosen the office. I mean, their friends are there, the commute isn’t “too bad” and they like that sandwich shop in town.
But the pandemic forced people to re-evaluate everything. Most had no choice but to work from home over an extended period and a lot (around 52% going by various surveys) of them would rather not go back.
So what has changed, and what, despite all the obvious drawbacks are the benefits in working from home?
Let’s take a closer look at the top reasons for preferring working from home…………..
One thing I, and countless others haven’t been missing at all is the commute to and from work. Every day five days a week, driving to work – for me that was 40 minutes – and then the long drive home – that took 45 minutes. An hour and twenty-five minutes sitting in a car every day and I’m sure this was a short commute compared to some.
That’s over seven hours a week, and as much as I enjoyed listening to podcasts and music, it’s seven hours I much prefer not sitting in a car. It’s seven hours a week I can spend with the children, exercising, sleeping or even working. It’s seven hours I don’t have to concentrate on driving, especially on horrible weather days. Seven hours I am not using fuel, polluting the atmosphere or congesting roads.
It will be interesting to see if, once things start to return to normal, whether people are willing to give up their “commute time” again for the perceived benefits of office life.
Flexibilities of Life
Something else I have noticed during this pandemic is that the 9-5 has gone. As much as we are told that to maintain a proper work life balance that we should have clear work hours and they should be adhered to it has become more difficult to distance ourselves from work.
As we have come through more than one physical lock down, our employers have known exactly where we are as we have been unable to go anywhere. This has resulted in a blurring of the lines between work and home life. However, as much as this is seen as a disadvantage, I feel that there are many advantages to this too. Work is not now expected in a linear fashion. The rules of the boss sending out an email, knowing that his staff are at their desks and will immediately read it and then get the work done are gone. Bosses no longer have that degree of certainty. Their employees could be dealing with homeschooling a child, walking a dog, or have nipped to the shops to pick up a prescription – all of these things being done knowing that they wouldn’t get judged for doing so. No “office Nazi” checking whether they are at their desk at a certain time (although I still know of certain individuals who keep track of when people become active on Teams!)
What I am trying to say is that work and life boundaries have become fluid and it is much more acceptable these days not to be at your desk from exactly 9 until 5pm and if you need to do something else then it’s fine as long as the work is done. It is, largely up to the individual, to determine their own work life balance.
Again, it will be interesting to see, once we return to mainly office based work (if indeed we do) if the acceptance of having differing priorities at certain times will be tolerated, or if, we regress to an expectation that, personal priorities will be taken care of outside of the normal work day hours.
Space, the Final Frontier
Another thing that this pandemic has taught us is that although we can work together remotely and have more than proved it to some of our more cynical companies’ management, some people enjoy the social interaction that comes along with working in an office.
Whether it’s the arranged department meetings or bumping into someone as you grab a coffee there is no doubt that we miss the random chats about weekend activities, children’s hilarious antics or the football it all adds to forming social connections with people.
However, without this social interaction, although some us miss it, others flourish. Without the time taken to engage with random people, whether it’s that person from accounts on floor 2 or the woman you see every day at the sandwich shop, it means we are free to use that “lost” time to concentrate on more meaningful long term relationships and also get on with work. It is no surprise that studies have shown that people working from home actually do more work than those in an office. For those people that you don’t want to lose touch with, there is always Teams. I continually have “virtual coffee” breaks with those people I want to keep in touch with.
A lot of people prefer having more personal space and I think the pandemic has allowed those people to thrive and even enjoy working in their own bubble. I see this as a huge benefit, both to the individual and also to the company. We are after all individuals and, as long as the work is getting done, then I think the individual should have more of a choice as to how (and where) that work is done.
Now whether this new-found freedom from being tied to a desk in an office in the centre of the city will have repercussions is anyone s guess. As companies’ come to realize that they no longer need vast office space in high rent office blocks downtown they may also come to the conclusion that other savings could be made to their employees as well. They have discoverd that the company can continue with people working from the end of a broadband connection. As connectivity across the planet increases, possibly accelerated by Elon Musk’s satellite empowered high speed broadband anywhere, it may become feasible to consider ditching their more expensive local employees in favour of outsourcing entire departments to companies’ that offer cheaper alternatives. Don’t be surprised if some companies’ reach the conclusion that their finance department can be outsourced to Bangalore.
In my opinion the recent influx in working from home as a result of the pandemic has given a lot of people a view of how work could be in the future, whether it’s 100% working from home, 100% working in an office or a mixture of the two.
I think, on the whole, most people would prefer to be able to choose what percentage of time they spend at home compared to the office to a level that is suitable for them. The big question will be whether employers will embrace this change in attitudes and allow the individual the choice or go back to pre-covid times and insist on employees returning to the office full time.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Do you agree with my thinking on the current working from home advantages and also what are your thoughts on the future now that the work from home cat is out of the bag? I would very much like to hear your thought son what your own advantages and disadvantages are on working from home. Please let me know in the comments below and let’s get a conversation started.
I look forward to hearing from you.