14 Jun 2022

The pros and cons of WFH

The pandemic lockdowns are in the past but the impact they had on our working practices is still reverberating, and we are continuing to make adjustments to our working life.

At the height of the Covid crisis, working from home was seen as the universal panacea – a safe way of ensuring that we were productive but not at risk from office-borne infections. For many of us, working from home was a revelation; it was a liberating chance to restructure our working lives around our family commitments and many people found the self-containment of the home office surprisingly conducive to concentration.

Not everybody reacted positively to this move into the domestic sphere. Some people felt lost, disorientated and distracted. They missed the everyday pleasantries of office life and longed to return to the workplace.

Not surprisingly, there are pros and cons to both:

Pros of Working From Home

• You are able to work flexibly and, if your employer agrees, you can structure your working day around your family or other commitments­ ­– for example, working early in the morning or in the evening.

• Providing you have a dedicated workplace at home, where you can shut yourself off from the household, you will be free from outside distractions and should be able to work more productively.

• In many offices a great deal of time is wasted by employees getting together for unnecessary and protracted meetings, which can easily wander away from the subject in hand to gossip or unrelated issues. If you are restricted to Zoom meetings, they tend to be shorter and more focussed.

• You will not be spending hours every week to travelling to and from work, and you therefore will not have to fund your – increasingly expensive – commute. Even if you do have to attend the occasional meeting you will be able to organise it in off-peak hours and will not be penalised with higher peak hours fares.

Cons of Working From Home

• Your house is full of distractions. You may become diverted by domestic chores, the garden, or the fridge – if you feel like procrastinating or are gearing yourself up to make a difficult call, it is all too easy to wander into the kitchen for a quick snack or cup or coffee.

• You are unobserved by colleagues. If you are prone to spending hours messaging your friends or online shopping, you may find this habit gets out of hand in the privacy of your home office.

• Your absence from the office may mean that you miss out on opportunities or information that you will only pick up accidentally when you are there in person. You may also find that out of sight is out of mind; if you are not physically present, your managers may overlook you or turn to in-house employees.

• You will be missing out on routine chats over the coffee machine or the water cooler. These day-to-day pleasantries are not only a pleasant distraction, they are a simple and effective way of bonding with your colleagues and feeling part of a team.

The Goldilocks Principle

For some employers, the deserted office is an affront. They feel that oversight of their employees is impaired and that efficiency is suffering.  They also feel that the lack of in-person meetings is leading to communication breakdowns and damaging teamwork and collaborative work.  Some are beginning to insist on a full return to the office.

Other employers have radically restructured their operations post-pandemic. They have accepted the working from home model and have been able to reduce overheads by moving to much smaller offices.

Bearing all the pros and cons in mind, many people are now opting for a third way – hybrid working. They will go into the office one or two days a week, which gives them a chance to re-bond with their colleagues and have in-person meetings. They will spend the rest of the week working from home. For many people this is the perfect compromise, providing sufficient social contact and stimulation, but ensuring that they also have the flexibility and independence of working from home.

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