Every business owner wants their company to succeed, and every People or HR manager wants to foster a happy team through a positive work culture. The way we work - and where we work - has a profound effect on both of those outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for us to answer this business-critical question:
Is it better to work from home or in the office?
There are many benefits to both home working and office working, making it difficult to decide what will work best for your business. You may even feel anxious about the future of work, its trend towards a more remote-friendly approach, and how that will affect company culture and employee productivity. But fear not, because we are here to help answer all your questions about working from home vs the office, including:
- What are the benefits of working from home vs in an office?
- Do you need to be in an office to effectively collaborate?
- Does remote working negatively affect company culture?
- Can employees work productively at home?
- How does working from home or in the office affect your business’s bottom line?
- Is a hybrid work model best for your employees?
What Are the Pros and Cons of Working from Home?
There’s been a lot of discussion about the benefits and challenges of remote work for employees, but you should also know how this work model would impact you and your company. It’s important to understand how home working would positively or negatively affect turnover, employee retention, talent acquisition, and more. Let’s start with the benefits.
Benefits of Working from Home
As a result of the pandemic, many businesses closed their office doors and encouraged employees to work from home full-time. For most, this was an entirely new experience and it uncovered the many advantages of working remotely.
One of the biggest pros of working from home is increased flexibility, which can lead to happier and healthier employees. Remote work empowers team members to work in a way that suits their lifestyles and fits around other personal commitments. For example, the lack of commute to and from work - which averaged about an hour a day pre-pandemic - gives precious time and money back to employees that they can use to be with loved ones or work on their own well-being. This flexibility is likely to improve employee productivity - opposite to the fear many employers have about home working - and bolster employee satisfaction, which will help you to retain and attract better talent.
Working remotely also allows you, the employer, to widen your talent pool and gain access to the best talent from across the globe. By eliminating geographical limitations, you can find the best person for the job, no matter where they’re based. This can help you fill tricky roles, like engineering positions, and find world-leading experts to help your company crush the competition.
Finally, working from home can reduce business costs. Renting or purchasing office space is expensive, especially in corporate hubs and capital cities. You have to cover rent, utilities, cleaning services, corporate catering, employee relocation costs, and more. What if you didn’t need permanent office space anymore? Those resources could go back into improving your product, company culture, and employee experience. Instead, you could take advantage of on-demand workspaces so your colleagues can meet up from time to time.
Challenges of Working from Home
While there are many pros to remote work, working from home does have its challenges too. It’s a fairly new way of doing business, so you’re guaranteed to run into some obstacles. Adapting to remote work takes time and effort from all members of the team.
The main fear many CEOs and founders have about working from home is that it could negatively impact collaboration and company culture. The lack of in-person interaction can be challenging, and without proper investment and forward-thinking, company culture and collaboration can fall by the wayside. Because of this, your HR team will need to implement robust new processes, work-from-home policies, and social initiatives to ensure your business runs smoothly and company culture doesn’t suffer.
Working from home also requires better technology to make it a success. From high-quality home office equipment to effective collaboration software, you need to get the work-from-home set-up right to help your teams flourish. This could mean budgeting for a remote work allowance to help staff purchase everything they need to work from home successfully.
Finally, while working from home does allow for more employee flexibility, it can blur the line between personal and professional life. This can lead to staff working longer hours and burning out more easily. Therefore, you need to make work-life balance a key business goal if opting for home working.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Working in an Office?
Working in an office full-time was the norm before COVID-19, and there are both benefits and challenges that come with a traditional working model - for both the employee and the employer. As you start to welcome your colleagues back to the office, be sure to read about all its pros and cons.
Office Work Benefits
The traditional way of working - i.e. working in an office - has worked well for many businesses for a long time, so there are many benefits that come with it.
One of the biggest advantages of your whole team working in an office is that it makes collaboration easy. You can book a meeting room to brainstorm new ideas or catch up in the kitchen while making coffee. There are no timezone differences to account for, and being in the same place physically can help colleagues to connect and develop peer relationships.
Secondly, the office is generally set up to help employees fulfil their specific roles well, in a way that working from home doesn’t automatically provide. In an office, your teams can use high-speed internet, specialized tools and software, spacious desks and comfortable chairs, and more, while their homes may not be as well equipped.
Lastly, coming into an office can help keep work and home life separate. While you can remain logged into emails and Slack outside of working hours, the office does provide a physical barrier between work and play. As long as your company culture fosters work-life balance, this can help prevent employees from becoming over-worked and unproductive.
Office Work Challenges
But just because working in an office was the norm, it doesn’t mean it’s the ideal way of doing business from now on. In fact, there are some significant drawbacks to this traditional approach.
Firstly, an office-first business doesn’t leave much room for flexibility. Some people work best in the office, while others prefer working from home. Implementing a blanket back-to-office plan prevents flexibility, and could make employee wellbeing and productivity plummet.
Office work can also exclude or deter some employees - for example, certain disabled people or parents and carers. If you choose to take an office-first approach, you need to work extra hard at making the workplace accessible to everyone.
Finally, working in an office reduces your talent pool significantly. You limit potential candidates to those based in close proximity to your workplace, who may not be as highly skilled as those based further away. By creating an office-centric approach to work, you’ll miss out on great talent based around the country - and even around the world!