It’s no secret that I like to shake things up, and the most controversial topic in HR right now is – to force employees back to the office from remote work, or not? So, allow me to jump in with both feet.
Before I launch into my editorialized opinions, I will preface the blog post with the fact that I am not discussing jobs that specifically require the employee to be on site. For example, manufacturing positions or warehousing. If an employee is absolutely required to be on site and be hands-on to do the job, then, this is not a dilemma for them.
Today, there are jobs that have historically been done at the office that can be performed from home. Here are some common discussion points that I want to dive into.
“Of all new teleworkers, 90% reported being at least as productive, (i.e., accomplishing at least as much work per hour, at home as they were previously at their usual place of work). 58% reported accomplishing about the same amount of work per hour, while 32% reported accomplishing more work per hour.”StatsCan
Only 10% of employees were not as productive. The one thing they had in common was that they were the less experienced workers.
I have two key take-aways here:
- The majority of employees did not spend 2 years waiting for work to fall from the sky. They work hard to finish their work ahead of schedule, deliver above and beyond their abilities, and at a cost (see my next theme).
- The importance of training and mentorship does not go away with remote work. It plays an important role in developing and nurturing your work force. Those 10% feel truly disconnected from their work, and that’s a red flag (call me?).
Organizations that claim their teams are just more productive in-person are not paying attention to the statistics and are acting based on assumption. If you’re still a doubter, I challenge you to name one (1) company that has claimed losses in their financial statements because of the constraints suffered by shifting to remote work.
I’ve been working from home for 20 years. I haven’t noticed any drop in my productivity, but I have enjoyed greater flexibility and work-life balance as I raised my children while securing a good income. I’m not sure what more an office environment would have added to my working experience.
SHARED WORKING COSTS
The convenience of working from home and eliminating the commute comes at a cost. The pandemic gave me pause enough to become more aware of the sunk costs of being employed.
Some lifestyle costs that come to mind:
- The time it takes to commute
- Transportation cost (and maintenance if you use a vehicle)
- Child care
- Mandatory social events (sold as optional)
- And more…
Though employees bid adieu to some of these costs during COVID, they have assumed new costs. They are not covered by employers, but are required to perform the job.
- High-speed internet connection
- Computers that can run teleconferencing software
- Designing and implementing a work space (purchasing furniture)
- And more…
When employees are in the office, the trade-off is that the employer covers the working costs, while you cover the lifestyle costs. At the end of the day, it balances out – employer profits and you get your salary.
The balance has now skewed with remote work. Both employers and employees are more keenly aware of the costs required to maintain employment.
I want to tip my hat to the employers who cover some of the costs for their employees, the employees that negotiate a fair wage that accounts for the sunk costs, and the government for also recognizing some of these gaps and stepping up to support both parties through income tax credits.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
I know that it’s easy to get nostalgic about how things used to be, but this is how I think of it.
- Not everyone enjoyed working in an office, especially as environments transitioned to open work spaces, where there is no privacy.
- The way things worked pre-COVID (the 9-to-5) was introduced by the Ford Motor Company back in the 1920s. They recognized that the mental health of their workers suffered when shifts were longer. They shortened shifts, and introduced more shifts (growing the work force), in the interest of better mental health.
Note that the workers identified to burn out during longer shifts were the assembly line workers at Ford. Now that we’re ever-connected thanks to the digital revolution, it’s time that we embrace everything it has to offer.
Remote work isn’t for everyone. I would like to invite you to consider that maybe office work isn’t for everyone either. I’ve spoken to countless people who have PTSD and deep traumas from normalized office behaviour. I’ve spoken to employees who got regular anxiety attacks on their way to work because of their specific work environment. These people remained silent, as mental health was not something anyone openly spoke about until recently. Now, candidates take culture and work dynamics as a more serious consideration before accepting a job offer.
Introverts are an especially vulnerable group that actually rejoiced at the changes the pandemic forced. They don’t yearn for the social life that office work brings. They excel in a quiet space where they can focus on the task at hand. Everything that interferes with that focus does cause them distress. I’ve spoken to introverts, including vice-presidents, who do not appreciate being interrupted every few minutes to give spontaneous face time. The office is made up of delicate and consuming dynamics that can not be ignored.
Organizations have resisted offering remote work as a benefit to their employees, only to be thrust into it during COVID. It’s time that we’re honest about who benefits. How we can do better and how we can support each other in bringing our best selves to work?
Are you looking for your next opportunity? If you found yourself in my words, let’s sit down and chat. I love helping people find out what their values are and what their next big move is.