If you’d have asked me a few years ago if I thought that working from home was part of our future, I’d have said no way. For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard people wish for a time when they could work from home, at least some of the time. Mostly, employees were told by their employers that they preferred not to set a precedent that they then would have to take into consideration for all. Their core belief, I think, was that employees would slack off if given the opportunity to work from home and would take advantage of an increased amount of freedom to plan their work days differently to when they were working in an office environment.
Then came Covid and everything changed. Even radio and television hosts no longer came into studios to do their work. They set up equipment in their homes and interviewed their guests via Zoom and by way of high-quality recording devices. Fortunately, I had already been seeing some of my clients online so bringing the rest of my client load on board was not too steep of a movement towards becoming fully virtual. Most HR departments and CEOs of companies found ways to accommodate their employees and gradually, most everyone was working from home.
Recently there has been a lot of chatter about employees returning to a hybrid model in the workplace. The backlash following this recommendation or request has been huge, however. Some employees have signed petitions to keep things as they are. Some have just not complied with the request to return. Some have returned briefly but then found ways to continue working from home.
Part of the desire to remain working from home, I believe, is that we have all become so comfortable with it. Many set their alarms for later than before, so they can sleep in longer. Many don’t even bother to get out of their nightgowns or just throw on a shirt and shorts (even during the Winter months), before logging onto their computers. Most have enjoyed not having to commute – either by driving or taking public transit. They don’t miss the extra time that this takes, the jostling with fellow passengers or impatient drivers alongside them. They also like that they’ve saved money in the process, especially now that the cost of gas is so high. Most like not having to figure out what to make and take for lunch. They say that its so much more convenient to open up their fridge when they’re hungry and to prepare whatever they’re in the mood for at the time. Many parents have found it so much more convenient to be at home when their child’s school calls to say that their kid is not feeling well. They can fit in an important appointment without having to arrange time off. The bottom line is, from what I have heard, is that most employees would rate job satisfaction as higher since working from home. And despite employers’ concerns that their employees might slack off or not get the job done, I think just the reverse is true. It appears that employees are working harder to prove that they can get their work done just as well at home, and they’re even working longer hours because the lines between work and home are completely blurred, which is not really a good thing.
From a psychological perspective, however, I think that there is something beneficial about employees returning to an office environment between one and three days a week. Despite thinking that working from home is here to stay, and that most employees are liking it this way, I do believe that working solely from home does remove some of the positives of getting up, dressed, and then convening with peers from time to time. Without this, the collegial, social networking aspect of working as part of a team is not as strong. Sure, there are Zoom and Google Meets, for example, but it’s not quite the same as walking past a colleague and chit chatting about this and that. When you’re meeting your peers at a prescribed date and time, the meetings are more specifically directed at resolving something work related. Also, as mentioned, there is great benefit to getting up and out from time to time. There’s benefit to even negotiating traffic or resolving frustrating experiences on the way to or at work. There’s benefit to putting yourself together and presenting yourself in a way that makes you feel the distinction between home and work. There’s benefit to going out after work with colleagues, if you’re able, to socialize.
So, my recommendation is that when it comes time to consider, if that time hasn’t already happened, a return to a hybrid model of work, don’t dig in your heels too deeply. Consider the importance of balancing work and play, and also, how even more appreciative you might feel for the opportunity of working from home on the days that you don’t have to be in the office.