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.