What leaders are getting wrong about working from home
Do in-person offices really matter?
Malcolm Gladwell certainly seems to think so. In a recent interview for the podcast, Diary of a CEO, Gladwell asserted that remote work is actively detrimental to employees’ social and emotional wellbeing.
In fact, he even went so far as to say, “It's not in your best interest to work at home. I know it's a hassle to come to the office. But if you're just sitting in your pyjamas in your bedroom, is that the work-life you want to live?"
Gladwell appears to operate on the assumption that people who work from home must inherently feel disconnected from their companies, their co-workers, and thus, many of the social aspects which make our jobs meaningful.
Gladwell is certainly not the only business leader who feels this way, (you only need to look on LinkedIn to know that) but is it a fair representation of remote working?
Let's explore some of the benefits of working from home that may have slipped their minds...
What’s so great about working from home?
Although working from home was a relatively new phenomenon for many people pre-pandemic, we’ve since discovered that remote work can actually be very fulfilling and accessible. In fact, many people actually prefer it! Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why.
Greater flexibility and work-life balance
Although most people do value meaningful careers, we also have a life outside of the office. We have friends, family, hobbies, and interests that add joy and meaning to our lives and we all want the freedom and flexibility to invest in the things that matter to us.
Working from home often allows for greater flexibility with our work schedules. And because you’re not in the office all day - or spending loads of time on a commute - even the time you spend working from home can offer new opportunities for connection.
For example, if you’re a parent who works from home, you might be able to run a video conference from your living room while watching your child play. You can answer a quick email while watching your kids in the park or taking a walk with your family.
Sure, you might still be working, but the fact that you’re able to spend more time with your family on a daily basis is a tremendous perk of working from home.
This is especially true for many working parents who struggle with work-life balance and wish they had more time to spend with their families.
Speaking of work-life balance, according to the Office of National Statistics study, more than three-quarters of those who worked from home in some capacity said that it improved their work-life balance.
Quicker and easier to complete tasks
Have you ever felt that your office environment actively hindered your progress? If you have, you’re not alone! While connecting with co-workers can often be pleasant, it can also be difficult to be as productive or efficient as you’d like when people keep stopping by your desk for a chat.
Likewise, the constant hum of other people’s conversations can be distracting and make it difficult to focus. In fact, studies show that over 70% of office employees feel distracted, and on average are disrupted as often as 56 times a day!
Many employees who have felt limited by the constraints of an office environment have discovered that working from home can be freeing.
When you can choose your own environment and your own working hours, it’s often easier to create a distraction-free zone where you can power through your workday at a productive pace that suits you.
Plus, totally remote companies don't have to pay extortionate rates to rent office spaces. So that's a money-saving win right there.
Working from home is more inclusive
It’s no secret that office environments aren’t always inclusive of people with disabilities.
Long commutes, bright lights, inaccessible floor plans, and overly noisy environments are all common parts of many offices and this can be very difficult for neurodivergent people, people with limited mobility, and people who live with chronic fatigue.
Working in these conditions every day can make it very difficult for people with disabilities to feel comfortable or reach their full potential at work. But when you can work from home in an environment that feels right for you, you can be your best and most productive self.
That’s a really valuable thing for any employee but especially those who feel excluded by the environment of traditional, in-person offices.
Are employees disconnected at home?
We’ve explored some of the key reasons why many people love working from home, but now it’s time to return to the argument at hand.
Gladwell’s central premise is that working from home is bad for you because it leaves employees feeling disconnected from their companies and their careers. But is that really true?
No, certainly not for everyone.
There's a risk that employees who work from home may feel isolated at one point or another. But companies that adapt and take crucial steps to engage and support their employees can remedy that.
Many companies have implemented welcome Zoom meetings, online office buddies, and group messaging channels like Slack to cultivate a positive company culture online. And that includes us!
These measures help employees feel connected to one another and to a common goal no matter where they are - and studies show that they’re achieving that goal.
Working from home may be a new and different approach to the modern career but it’s also an exciting opportunity that offers more flexibility, more inclusion, and a personalised approach that empowers us to be our best and most connected selves at work.
While remote working might not be Malcolm Gladwell’s thing, it's certainly ours.