Is the current office model outdated?

office

Remember like, a year ago when lots of big businesses were saying they weren’t going to require their employees to go back to the office? And then, inevitability they did. A lot of big companies and whole industries (like, banking and wall street,) have gone back to the office. What did we learn from corporate’s ‘year-at-home’? Are industries and office culture really going to adapt to modern WFH life? Or is the 9-5, 5-day-workweek here to stay?

Advantages of WFH

At the start of the pandemic, many companies feared that working remotely would cut done on productivity. After a year, that has proven not to be the case. Many employees feel more productive working remotely. 82% of senior executives surveyed reported seeing productivity levels either stay the same or increase because of working from home. WFH has cut down on something surprising: innovation.

82% of senior executives surveyed reported seeing productivity levels either stay the same or increase because of working from home.

WFH lowers office costs and shortens commutes. Employees like the freedom. 69% of respondents to Microsoft’s WFH survey said that the main reasons liked working remotely were: dressing more casually, being able to personalize their workspace, and having their pet by their side. Working from home also cuts down on casual workplace interruptions. That same Microsoft study found that before WFH, workers felt like 52% of their workday was wasted due to unnecessary disturbances. That number has fallen to 41% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Michael Parke, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who worked on the Microsoft study, said: “It seems that employees are able to hunker down and get less distracted while working remotely… However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others.”

IN Office-Hybrid-WFH advantages and disadvantages

“However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others.”

Michael Parke

Disadvantages of WFH

Working remotely means it’s hard to connect with coworkers, both for formal communication as well as for personal connections. This has had a direct impact on companies’ ability to innovate. The Microsoft study reported that the percentage of leaders who felt that their companies were innovative dropped 16% in 2020. Without sharing a physical space brainstorming and collaboration is more difficult. It’s harder to come up with new ideas as well as enact them.

The overnight and “temporary” switch to working remotely has created many challenges for employers and employees alike. WFH on this scale is such a new thing that solutions to challenges and long-term repercussions are still very much unknown. Being aware of challenges as they come up is the only way for companies to work on effective solutions.

What About A Hybrid Office?

As companies transition back to the office, many bigger companies aren’t seeing it as all or nothing: office vs. WFH. Many companies are trying a hybrid workplace. For example, the London based bank, StandardCharter is pushing and incentivizing a hybrid office model across its global offices. They plan to create smaller office hubs and give employees the choice to work at the office or at home. They are suggesting that employees meet at the office regularly to check in and collaborate. Building We-Work style office spaces will help solve technology deficiencies in their branches in developing countries and will lower costs across the board. 

Facebook is also moving to a more hybrid work model. However, they are allowing it more than promoting it. Their current policy is that any full-time employee can request to WFH. Some jobs such as data center maintenance and hardware development will not be allowed to work remotely. They are also planning to adjust salary based on where you decide to work. It is a lot cheaper for the employee to work remotely from a city in the Midwest. (For example, the cost of living in San Francisco, CA is 199.8% higher than it is here in Omaha, NE.) Facebook is going to open all their US offices up to 50% capacity in the fall. Meaning, that almost 30,000 employees will continue to work remotely.

How has the last year of WFH impacted entrepreneurs?

Many people took the opportunity of disrupted work to start new businesses. Many people liked the freedom and flexibility that working from home offered and decided to leave their corporate jobs and pursue entrepreneurship.

“Americans submitted an average of 111,000 applications for new businesses per week between the end of June 2020 and the beginning of September 2020, the most applications submitted per week since 2007.”

U.S. Census Bureau

How do many people feel about going back to the office?

A lot of banks and tech companies went back to the office last week. How do their employees feel about it after working from home for a year and a half? Of the over 1,200 employees and 133 executives surveyed at the end of last year, 55% said they would prefer to still work remotely at least 3 days a week. Along with the loss of flexibility and other perks WFH offers, going back to working surrounded by people can be daunting. A scary as it may be, it will show your employer and teammates your commitment to your job and flexibility in dealing with transitions. Which will be really appreciated! If you are feeling anxious about the return, talk to your boss. Your company may be more open to a hybrid office than you think.

There is never going to be a complete consensus to the question: is WFH better? Every business, every office, and every employee will have a different opinion and method that works best for them. It doesn’t really matter what your company decides to do, as long as it’s the right fit for you.

Do you think a hybrid office is effective?

 
 

Why Does WFH Have A Bad History?

Many companies (including our own) have been forced to adapt to WFH this year. Many of us enjoy working from home now and flexibility it offers. Why haven’t companies pushed WFH before?

Well, they have. And it hasn’t always gone well. For example, in 2009 40% of IBM’s 386,000 employees in 173 counties worked from home. In 2017, however, thousands of them were called back to the office. Why? Revenue was slumping, and as Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics says, “Working from home is a strategic move, not just a tactical one that saves money. A lot of it comes down to trust. Do you trust your people?”

Taking a global pandemic out of the equation, what are the advantages of WFH? Employees regain valuable time in not having to commute and are able to set their own work schedules. Working in your comfortable home environment can increase productivity. Employers can cut costs with smaller office spaces and amenities. They can also hire people from all over, not worrying about proximity to the office. Deeping the talent pool pushes diversity and in turn, innovation.

In late May 2020, Morning Consult surveyed US workers, 54% said they wanted to work remotely. But of those already working remotely, over 50% said they feel less connected to their company, which highlights a larger problem with WFH: management. Jody Thompson, who worked on Best Buy’s failed WFH program, said that part of the reason the program failed was that when the company was doing poorly, management began to fear that they were giving their employees way too much freedom. “It went back to a philosophy of ‘If I can see people, that means they must be working.” she said. And so, the employees when back the office.


A lot of companies have been surprised by the productivity increases

“People are shocked. No one found a drop-in productivity. Most found an increase.”

A lot of companies have been surprised by the productivity increases coming from WFH. John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University said, “People are shocked. No one found a drop-in productivity. Most found an increase.”

Proving that the problem may not be the employees, but how they are managed. Now that everyone has to work remotely, it has helped many managers understand what it’s like to work from home and what their employees need to WFH effectively.  

So, as Jody Thompson said, it all comes down to trusting your employees.

What do you think has caused WFH to fail in the past? DO you think that technology like Zoom will help working remotely succeed this time?


Do You Have A “Zoom Shirt?”

The “zoom shirt” is a trend born out of working from home. It’s too easy at home to not dress up for work at all. Or get out of your pajamas. And so, the “zoom shirt” became a quick way to reclaim some level of professionalism when on zoom business calls, but something you don’t have to wear all day while working from your couch.

Zoom Shirt

Adolf Loos, the Austrian architect said in 1903, that a person is properly dressed not when he stands out but when he is wearing the correct apparel for the moment at hand. Because the “moment at hand” is so unprecedented it can be hard to know exactly what the appropriate business attire actually is. We are all aware that we are sitting in our homes. That through zoom, we are viewing people in their informal setting. It can seem wrong to appear as we did before. Seeing someone in a suit sitting at their dining room table can be jarring. But on the other hand, a level of professionalism is excepted. Late night host Seth Meyer got a bit of backlash for dressing too casual for his show, which is now filming in his house. People said that his overly causal clothes undercut his delivery of important topics. So, there has to be a happy middle ground.

The office wear brand MM.LaFleur coined the phrase “mullet dressing”  business on the top, party on the bottom. Having a simple go-to article of clothing nearby your workstation can make it easy to quickly look professional on camera at a moment’s notice.

Joe Farrell, the executive vice president of Funny or Die, has gotten so good at the zoom shirt he was interviewed about in in the New York Times. Farrell has a short sleeve button down shirt he keeps on the back of his chair. He has worn it for 70 consecutive days. He kept waiting for someone to notice and no one ever did. He says that every time he has told people about it, he expects them to call him out for it, instead all they do is tell him about their own zoom shirts.

Talking to the New York times about why he has continued to try and dress up for zoom meetings, Timo Weiland, the creative director of the fashion company that bears his name, said, “It’s about preserving a sense of professionalism in a formless environment, where the sense of urgency is gone. I have 7 to 10 Zoom meetings a day, and I feel far less prepared if I’m wearing a hoodie-and-pajamas look.”

What makes a good zoom shirt? It can be any article of clothing that you can quickly throw on to feel more professional: a scarf, jacket, a button down, sweater, anything really. The things that make a good zoom shirt are ironically similar to things that make good travel clothes. It needs to be easy to store, doesn’t get wrinkled easily, works for many types of social settings, and ideally doesn’t have to washed that often.

Do you have a “zoom shirt” already? What do you think makes a good zoom shirt?


Carve Out Your Own Office Space

Is your temporary home office starting to feel a little more permeant? What can you do to build a home office that you actually want to work in?

Step one. Figure out what you actually need. Do you actually need a standard desk? How about filing cabinets and office supplies? Understanding what you need will help you figure the space you need and what your priorities should be.

Where should you put it? Is sharing the dining room table not really working anymore? It can be difficult to want to mess up your homes aesthetic with a desk smashed into room. Incorporating your workspace into your living space may help you be more motivated and looking forward to working. Without being a corporate setting, you have more of an opportunity to decorate your space the way you want. This truly your space. You can fill it however you want and put it where you want. You don’t have to star at a wall all day if you don’t want. Put your desk in place where you can command the room, and you’ll feel like you got a promotion.

Even if WFH is temporary for you, it shouldn’t have to feel like it. You deserve to like your space and feel productive in it.