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Street signs that say home this way with arrow or office the other way with arrow.

The hot topic over the last year and half has been whether working from home is just as good, if not better than working from the office. While I am sure that many employees lean one way and their employers lean another, it might be a good time to examine the benefits and drawbacks to each.

Back in the 1930’s, famous economist, John Maynard predicted that his own grandchildren would only need to work fifteen hours a week based on technological advancement. His theory was that the average time to accomplish the same work could be done in a fraction of the time. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. While technology has continued to improve over the years, the amount of time people put into work has only gone up. Maybe that’s why the movement to working remotely from home has become so popular and thanks to Covid, it has gotten the push it needed to be more acceptable.

Those that work from home all say the same thing…it allows for more flexibility. No more long commutes or time wasted in conference room meetings. People said that they felt much more productive working from home, compared to working in the office. But why is that? And is that really the case?

Working from the office promotes comradery. Face-to-face meetings with your colleges in person helps to understand better what is happening with those people, creates a more trusting environment and of course promotes teamwork. These are all things you would think any person would want from their job and working environment.

Instead, people today are perfectly fine if all they need to do is put on a decent shirt for a zoom meeting once in a while or have a conference call where they don’t even need to look at someone during the discussion. I get it, working in your pj’s is more comfortable and not shaving or doing your hair ads up to a ton of saved time. But I keep looking for the real reason as to why so many people are not just choosing to work from home but in many cases insisting on it. I keep coming back to the one word that I hear time and time again…FLEXIBILITY.

Professor of Sociology at Middlebury College, Jamie McCallum has been quoted saying, “We find ourselves working longer hours than ever, and our work is always expanding into every nook and cranny of our lives.” Even those that are working from home who appreciate the flexibility of their working environment, admit that sometimes they feel like they are putting in more time doing their work since they don’t have an official start and end time. I see people commenting about this on LinkedIn all the time. Removing the commute has just moved their day to starting before 7:00 am and finishing well after 6:00 pm.

In all the conversations I’ve heard and content I have read about the “working from home vs working form the office” debate, it’s clearly apparent that the real issue isn’t about where people are the most productive but rather how much time they spend working. A Gallup Poll  found that the mean for hours worked by Americans was just over 44 hours per week and another poll showed that 39% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week. Studies have even shown that excessive work and stress levels can create real illness in people.  Doctor Jay Winner, Director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara CA and author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life says, “Stress doesn’t only make us feel awful emotionally, it can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of.” According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is connected to a number of leading causes of death including cancer, heart disease, lung issues, accidents, and suicide.

If that’s the case, it makes perfect sense why people want and need more flexibility in their work life. Maybe it’s a good thing to have time throughout the day to start and stop, as need be to handle other things happening in life which ultimately helps deal with and ease stress. But don’t be fooled by those in their “work from home” environments that tell you they started work at 7:00 am and finished up around 7:00 pm. Just because they start their day early and end their day late, doesn’t mean they have been working straight through. They’ve simply been utilizing their time in a different way, than the traditional office, 9 to 5er.

Perhaps what we as society really need to evaluate, isn’t where we should be working from but how and why these different environments make us productive. Working in the office absolutely has its benefits and so does working from home. Maybe the future of the working environment should consist of a little bit of both.

While most of the work being done for A3 Media happens together in one office, there are absolutely times when working from home may be needed for our team. Luckily, we work in a very flexible environment where everyone is equipped to do either option.

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Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic it is estimated that only 6% of the US workforce worked remotely. Due to the pandemic that number jumped to a high of 70% in April 2019.

There are benefits to remote and/or hybrid work models for both business and the workforce.

What are the benefits on the workforce side?
  • Remote employees save an average of 40 minutes daily from commuting.
  • Since 2020 people have been meeting by video calls 50% more since COVID-19.
  • After COVID-19, 92% of people surveyed expect to work from home at least 1 day per week and 80% expected to work at least 3 days from home per week.
  • 23% of those surveyed would take a 10% pay cut to work from home permanently.
  • People are saving on average close to $500 per month being at home during COVID-19. Resulting in savings close to $6000 per year.
  • 81% of those surveyed believe their employer will continue to support remote work after COVID-19.
  • 59% of respondents said they would be more likely to choose an employer who offered remote work compared to those who didn’t.
What are the benefits of remote working for employers?
  • Surveys show companies save an estimated $11,000 per year savings per remote employee.
  • Geographic boundaries removed allow for a larger talent pool to fill positions
  • Lower absenteeism rates
  • Office “Politics” reduced or eliminated
Why don’t people want to return to a traditional work model?
  • Change in daily routine: 27%
  • Being away from family or pets: 26%
  • Office politics and distractions: 34%
  • Childcare or caregiver responsibilities: 15%
  • Lack of health and safety measures (i.e., wearing a mask, social distancing): 32%
  • Being required to adhere to health and safety measures: 21%
The negative impacts to business:
  • The belief that workers will slack off if “no one is looking.”
  • Employers are afraid employees are more likely to engage in improper behavior while working from home, such as visiting inappropriate websites.
  • Employees might misuse company equipment or information.
  • This kind of distrust often results in many employers trying to monitor their employees who work from home.

While this “new normal” has both positives and negatives there is also a serious risk associated with remote work. Removing a secure network environment can have unforeseen and potentially wide spread and costly consequences.

  • Phishing Schemes
  • Weak Passwords
  • Unencrypted File Sharing
  • Insecure Home Wi-Fi
  • Working from Personal Devices

Cybersecurity spending is expected to increase at a double-digit rate in 2021, driven primarily by the need to enable employees to work from anywhere. Gartner is forecasting worldwide spending on information security and risk management technology and services will grow 12.4% to reach $150.4 billion in 2021.

The long-term impact of a remote or hybrid workforce will be reviewed and analyzed for years but one thing has already emerged as a result, “…. what we’re seeing in the data is a shift in people’s mindset post-pandemic.” This new remote/hybrid work model has changed the landscape of employee – employer relationships. The 2nd quarter of 2021 saw the highest number of US workers voluntarily leaving their jobs as business started to reopen. The workforce has readjusted their priorities. Even workers who are not able to do remote work are feeling empowered to ask for more in terms of work-life balance. It would appear that a mutually beneficial relationship has taken a back seat, for now.