Do employees really need to be present in the office?
The rise of remote opportunities and flexible working arrangements has challenged the traditional idea that employees need to be physically present in the office to be productive.
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However, whilst remote work has many advantages, there are still employers who prefer their employees to be in the office.
But is this approach outdated?
Collaboration and Communication
One reason why employers prefer in-office work is that it encourages collaboration and communication. When employees occupy the same workspace, it’s easier for them to exchange ideas and information. They can also get immediate feedback and clarification, which can speed up decision-making processes.
In contrast, remote work can create barriers to communication, as employees largely rely on email to communicate with their colleagues; this can lead to miscommunication or delayed responses. For certain roles or projects that require frequent communication and collaboration, being in the office can be beneficial.
Having your team in the office can help to build and maintain company culture. Physically working together can help employees develop a sense of camaraderie and connection with their colleagues, which can help them feel more engaged and motivated. This can lead to a stronger sense of belonging and a shared commitment to the company's mission and values.
In contrast, remote work can make it harder to establish a strong company culture, especially amongst new employees who have little chance of building such strong relationships with their team members when working from their individual homes.
All that said, camaraderie and team-building can occur on regular team outings and creative/brainstorming sessions that can be held in hired spaces/offices as and when necessary, rather than on a daily or weekly basis.
Productivity and Performance
Some employers still believe in-office work leads to higher productivity and performance (though this is incorrect). In their opinion, employees can be closely supervised and held accountable for their work when present in the office. Employers can also provide the necessary resources and equipment to ensure that employees have what they need to perform their job effectively.
These employers find remote work more challenging to monitor. Employees may also have to provide their own equipment and workspace, which can create distractions and potentially reduce productivity.
Given that stats don’t lie, this is an unfounded belief. Remote working can be more productive and better for a company’s bottom line, as employees aren’t stressed after a long commute nor distracted by their colleagues wittering on about pointless subjects. Employees can typically start work earlier and finish later when working from home, which gives much more scope for flexible working than a 9am-5pm in-office working pattern; this flexibility also improves morale.
For client-facing roles, employers may prefer their employees to be in the office to project a professional image; a physical space is also more conducive to client visits. In certain industries, such as within finance or law, clients may expect to meet with their service providers in person, and the lack of an office space could be a disadvantage for the business.
The pandemic forced companies to adapt to remote work, and many employers realised the benefits of flexible working arrangements. Remote work can increase employee satisfaction and reduce staff turnover rates, as it allows employees to have more control over their schedules and to work from wherever they’re most productive. It can also lead to cost savings for both employers and employees, as there is no need to pay for a physical office space, and employees can save on commuting costs. In short, clients can visit employees in hired meeting rooms and hot-desking set-ups.
Employers who embrace remote work can also access a larger pool of talent, as they’re not limited by geography. This can lead to a more diverse workforce and a wider range of perspectives and ideas. Additionally, remote work can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the company, by reducing commuting and energy usage.
There are few benefits to in-office working that can’t be replicated by employees working remotely with the addition of hot-desking/short-term hire of office spaces.
Given the sheer scope of the positives remote and flexible working can bring, I do think it’s an outdated approach to want employees in the office. The thought that a worker has to be present Monday to Friday in the same office space as their colleagues to be productive, collaborative, innovative and effective went out with the Ark.