In the Office or Work from Home: One Size Does Not Fit All

I’ve previously made my opinions known regarding remote work, or as I like to call it, WFH (Work from Home). I didn’t envision wanting, or needing, to address the issue again, but a recent post that showed up in my blog feed caught my attention and caused me to revisit the topic. I just couldn’t help myself.

This may be a good time to get up, take a break, stretch your legs, refill your coffee, and settle in for my latest rant.

Let me start off by saying that I prefer the ‘in real life’ model of working and conducting business. There is something I get out of face-to-face interactions that I’m not able to pull from emails, phone calls, or video conferences. Maybe I’m old school, or just plain old, when it comes to getting work done.

However, I recognize that there are real benefits to remote work. People spend less time commuting. Distractions to work are fewer and farther between, and these interruptions are better controlled and handled when they do occur. Employees have been able to shift hours to be more productive and better balance personal and work lives. Some have been able to relocate to more affordable areas, while at the same time companies have been able to draw from a wider geographic talent pool.

It’s been my contention that a hybrid model will be the option most companies choose to operate from. As I wrote previously:

Therefore, I envision a hybrid model with hotel offices and shared workspaces that will eventually win out. It allows companies to recognize cost savings through a significant reduction in office footprint, facilities maintenance, and associated expenses while still enjoying the benefits of having employees in the office to build the social bonds, shared understanding, and cultural norms that are necessary to build and sustain a company.

Under the hybrid approach, senior members of staff will be encouraged to spend more, not less, time in the office. Companies will turn their office into co-working spaces where employees can reserve desk space. Managers and team leads can schedule conference rooms for weekly staff meetings, project planning meetings, and design reviews. In addition to working together, employees will get to build and partake in the social interactions they desire which have been largely absent from our work environments over the last year.

However, the hybrid approach won’t work for everyone. Some companies are going to find that being in the office full-time works best for them, while others have been built from the ground up to have a fully remote workforce. Within the same company, different departments may find one model works better than another, although I wouldn’t recommend having different approaches across the same company.

But that’s the point, what I prefer and profess shouldn’t dictate what every company does. When it comes to being in the office full-time versus being fully remote versus the hybrid approach, there is no one size fits all approach, no matter what anyone says.

Some companies have built their culture and business process around remote work. Regular in person interactions are rarely, if ever required. There is a measure of implied trust between the company and the employees, and the selection process supports and identifies those who fit within the remote working structure.

For other companies, remote work is the absolute wrong answer. Their business processes and culture require in person meetings. If you’re an employee who prefers to work from home, then you need to seek out a company that supports it. Likewise, if you’re an employee who prefers regular office interactions.

In the middle of it all sits the hybrid approach. How many days to go to the office and at what interval are up to the company’s leadership to decide.

What frustrates me is when someone who has considerable influence, particularly over startups, makes a blanket statement such as the ones at the conclusion of this article:

For companies, this means hiring should include a face-to-face meeting. Teams should meet in person regularly. Going to the office should be a regular occurrence for those that live near one.

It is time to get back to the office, at least some of the time. It will make for better business. And I also think it will make us happier at work.

Bottom line, don’t give in to what some notable person might profess as the right solution to do business, meaning anyone who disagrees or holds a different opinion is wrong. Recognize and respect that every company’s situation is different and that the right answer is matching up the company’s culture and business practices with the remote/office working model that works best for them.

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