Home sweet home: do we really want to go back to the office?

Young African American Woman Enjoying Remote Work
Young African American Woman sitting on the floor in front of her couch reading a document with a laptop on her lap

About a year ago, the first pandemic in over a century caused global disruption, changing our routines of daily life in the process. Remote work has become the norm ever since, and many voices claim it’s here to stay. But what consequences could that have for you and your career?

It’s 08.55 and your alarm goes off for the fifth and final time, as you quickly pour yourself a coffee and crawl behind your laptop still dressed in your pyjamas: time to get to work. For some this sounds like heaven on earth. Others might miss asking their co-workers about their weekends on Monday morning, or their dodgy Zoom connection is simply driving them nuts. Either way, the ‘normal’ way of working has been replaced, at least for the time being. While some researchers claim it to be a positive trend, leading to greater productivity and more flexibility, others are a lot more sceptical. So should you embrace this development? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons.

Increased production

Although some homeworkers find it difficult to stay focused in the comfort of their own homes, one study shows that remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their co-workers at the office, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year. One major contributing factor that adds to this statistic is the benefit of eliminating daily commutes, as people simply have more time to actually do their work. Another positive outcome in favor of remote work is that in general it leads to healthier lifestyles. All in all it sounds like working from home is a win-win situation for both employees (flexibility) and employers (productivity), but there is one major issue that should not be overlooked: the power of social interaction.

Inside but not in sight

Fully remote workers may be more focused on their independent work, they tend to miss out on the opportunity to build powerful collaboration. In turn this could be harmful to their own career, especially in the long run. One study long before the pandemic, investigated a Chinese travel company that showed people at home were promoted at about half the rate of those at the office. One reason is that homeworkers are often overlooked and forgotten, whereas office workers stay in sight by having lunch, coffee and are able to just casually stop by for chit-chat. Recent research also supports the belief that if workers are allowed to choose how many days they work from home, some groups, such as women with young children, will stay at home significantly more often than others. The potential implementation of ‘hybrid working weeks’ may therefore sound tempting, but could be a lot more damaging to your career than you think.

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