The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people to work from home for the best part of a year, proving once and for all that remote working is possible for a wide range of jobs. Technology has liberated us from the need to work in the same place as our colleagues and many people are eager to avoid the commute permanently.
Although often conflated, flexible working is not quite the same as working from home. As workforces adjust to different working models, I explore four benefits of office working.
1. You can benefit from the culture of your organisation
Organisational culture has a proven influence on business performance, particularly revenue growth, net income, productivity, employee absence, creativity and employee retention. This is because culture impacts people’s wellbeing at work and can ensure we are more engaged and passionate about our roles.
It is also much easier to create a culture of support and personal development when you have employees of all levels in the same space. An office space is often at the heart of your business culture, it creates increased collaboration for meetings and group working, enhances relationship building across colleagues and helps with training and development opportunities. Encouraging curiosity in the office can help disseminate knowledge across the desks, breaking down silos and allowing for ideas to be shared and developed as a team.
2. It helps to maintain a healthy work-life balance
Even if you love your job, it’s not healthy to feel like you’re working during every waking hour. Everyone has a different attitude to balancing work and home, but research has long suggested that there are two broad groups: those who keep work and home separate are ‘segmenters’ and those who blend them both are ‘integrators’.1
Segmenters are able to devote sufficient energy to personal and professional projects, even when one area becomes busy or stressful. They are also better at mentally ‘switching off’, which reduces stress.
The office allows anyone to experience these benefits, regardless of their position on the segmenter/integrator spectrum; by having a clear ‘place of work’, one can physically leave it and draw a line under that part of the day.
If you’re working from home and finding the blend between home and work life difficult to manage, consider other ways to create boundaries, whether it’s working from a different room or going to your local library or coffee shop for the day.
3. The quality of your workplace is assured
It is often said that not all jobs are suitable for homeworking, but it is also true that not all homes are suitable for jobs.
In an office, you are guaranteed certain standards by law: suitable equipment for your job might include chairs that support your lower back and screens that don’t strain your eyes. There is also legislation that demands workplaces maintain appropriate working conditions, such as temperature.
At home, however, you are generally expected to make your own arrangements. It’s not just equipment that the office guarantees, it’s the atmosphere too. Social interactions naturally ebb and flow throughout the day with moments of conversation around desks and periods of quiet focus. At home, it is all down to you to nurture that focus.
For many, the office also offers an escape from distractions. Home-based working can often mean having to contend with spontaneous interruptions whether that’s pets, children or deliveries arriving at your door.
4. It’s easier to build relationships
When working from home, especially over an extended period, people’s networks can shrink considerably to the people they only directly need to work with.
Being in the office allows employees to connect with people they may not interact with daily. These spontaneous conversations over coffee or while passing in a corridor are hugely valuable. These moments can provide people with context about the business, sounding board advice, new ideas, collaboration opportunities, learnings in ‘how to get things done’ within the business and insight into where work overlap is occurring. What may feel like ‘time off the clock’ is often a rich addition to people’s work, leading to better decision-making and increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Additionally, it’s much easier to read people’s emotions face to face than over a screen resulting in more personal conversations where you can really get insight into people’s wellbeing and offer support where needed.