A plus for employees, employers, the economy

The back and forth on remote work vs. office work and vs. a hybrid system isn’t going anytime soon, but the noise of this ongoing debate is definitely getting louder. More and more companies are using more sophisticated technologies to assess whether their employees are productive or not. Meanwhile, companies that have gone 100% virtual say they are doing very well; other companies draw a line in the sand, and that line doesn’t include the option of working from home. For many companies based or present in small and medium-sized American cities, the discussion is largely over.

Remote work vs office: which is better depends on who is asked

Part of the confusion lies in the ongoing research on working from home versus a full office return: data is everywhere. Long before the pandemic, the human resources group SHRM had reiterated what seems obvious to many. For starters, employees were less stressed about not having to travel, they were less distracted by interruptions and jokes in the office, and often worked longer hours, the latter data being a bonus for companies wishing to brag. of their productivity.

Among the arguments against remote working, one of them is that lone workers do not work and collaborate together, which can boost a company’s overall efficiency and of course innovation. But for all the employees who often face microaggressions at work, or just don’t “fit in”, the lingo about “collaboration” often doesn’t resonate with them – it’s hard to be a part of any time if his contributions are not valued or overlooked. Additionally, the effects of the pandemic linger, which means that for many employees, the best possible mental health program that allows them to both heal and focus on the job at hand is a relatively simple solution: keep going. to work from home.

Nonetheless, the tussle between remote and physical workspaces continues – and in the spirit of fairness, another pre-pandemic survey found quite different results related to remote work compared to SHRM’s study. . Researching the habits of European workers, this 2019 study found that the productivity gap of employees working remotely compared to those in the office was close to 80%.

The most visible brands generate the most headlines at home or in the office

The headlines about remote work continue, in part due to divisions within the workforces of the most notable American brands. Take the conflict brewing at Apple, where employees are reluctant to enter the tech giant’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. (pictured above) three times a week. But of course they have their objections: for starters, the definition of “Silicon Valley” has long stretched from the Santa Clara Valley to the Peninsula, San Francisco and the East Bay, without talk about distant suburbs such as Tracy and even Los Banos. The results are much longer commutes to the office, as the median home price in Cupertino is currently around $2.65 million, and that’s after a recent price drop.

If you’ve suffered in Bay Area traffic, you’ll get it. If Apple were hypothetically based in a smaller, much more navigable city of 100,000, perhaps the pushback wouldn’t be so noticeable. If you have worked in the office where many colleagues drive, or commute and travel long distances, this stress of the morning routine is not only cooler conversation, but can affect the mood for the rest of your life. the day and the week. Add pandemic-induced stresses such as kids in school, worries about aging parents, stubborn virus variants, and of course, today’s toxic politics here in the United States.

This is another angle of the remote work debate. The reality is that we see two types of workers emerging: those who thrive in the office and bantering and collaborating with colleagues, and those who thrive best in the office in the guest room. Of course, there is the benefit of an occasional visit to the office; at the same time, major construction on a highway bridge or overpass, or a spike in fuel prices, should give corporate management more than a boost to send the memo, “there’s nothing difficult to work from home for the next few days”.

There is much more to this debate than “efficiency” and “collaboration”

“Some employees I know prefer to go to the office every day. Others not at all. The choice is theirs, as long as they meet the company’s minimum requirements and their managers are satisfied,” Gene Marks recently wrote for Guardian. “Are we still going to be debating working from home a year from now? I don’t think so. Because unlike some of the other issues created by the pandemic, a hybrid work environment is already ending this one. I just hope that my older clients recognize this because if they continue to resist, they will lose great talent.

Earlier this summer, Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom pointed out to Bloomberg additional complexities to the debate. For big cities under financial strain – including their public transport systems, which are suffering as many workers have fled to the suburbs or even further – a compromise on working hours is badly needed if our cities can still thrive or even survive in the long run.

Bloom added that companies looking for workers who need to work remotely, or at a minimum a hybrid schedule, can add to labor supply, which can in turn generate economic growth for workers. businesses and the economy at large. “There are a number of groups that are more able to work through working from home. Many people – think people with young children, people with disabilities, people close to retirement age, students – may be happy to work three days a week for six hours a day without commuting, but wouldn’t be prepared to do this five days a week, including commuting,” Bloom explained to Bloomberg’s Justin Fox. “I think it could increase labor supply by 2%, 3%, 4%, which would have a very big impact on growth.”

Ultimately, Bloom found a correlation between generous work-life balance programs at companies with strong management and overall positive business performance. Increase that, and the economic gains can be counted – and the human benefits too.

Image credit: Carles Rabada via Unsplash

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