Working from home, or working remotely, as some like to call it, has long been a part of the workday set up. Like so many issues in life these days, there seems to be some pretty polarising views on its effectiveness: For some, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened, for others it’s a pain and they can’t wait to get back to the office.

So, while the conversation isn’t new, it’s certainly ratcheted up during COVID-19. With people forced to work from home, often with family present, it has been a challenging time. As we begin the long march to normality, the question is being asked: Do we really need to be at the office?

Here’s my take on both sides.

The good: No commute and a bit of peace and quiet

First off, there’s a ton of people who profess that working remotely is much better, more efficient, and provides better “work life balance”.

The first thing I hear from people is the efficiency piece, and for many roles, that could well be the case. Sometimes, avoiding the distraction of the office means you can focus specifically on what you need to do. Video calls are all the rage and while that’s a whole other debate, in many cases they are an acceptable alternative to a face-to-face meeting.

Avoiding the commute is another key benefit, meaning that you save time and money. Also, it provides you more time to do the things you want, like go to the gym, pick up the kids, cook more dinners, etc. For some, the mental health impact of that is a real win.

It has meant that many companies are doing a rethink on the office space they lease. It’s tempting to reduce your overall footprint; it’s a real cost saver, particularly if you’re in a CBD location.

The bad: Does it kill morale and are the productivity gains real?

 The opposite side is that it’s causing our teams to disconnect from one another. Like many things in life, work sees you interact with a variety of people, not all of whom might be your choice of human being to hang around with, but it forces us to work together for the common good. I know some feel very isolated, and even more so during the COVID period. Work isn’t just ‘work’, its part of our daily social interaction with people.

The productivity question is a hard one. Some claim they do more but is that demonstrable? Is the lure of our home life, with all the creature comforts, too hard to resist? There’s certainly an argument that some will test the boundaries of this relationship, seeing a decline in productivity. It’s a real 50/50 question.

The verdict

 So, who’s right? The answer for many I suspect is a pineapple! With the risk of upsetting one camp or the other, here’s my take.

I think there’s a balance. Working from home has so many benefits that it can’t be ignored, but the flip side is there is still something to be said for human interaction, for building those relationships with people that are hard to really construct over a video screen.

Productivity is a tough one…I fall into the camp of those who don’t prefer to work at home: For me there are too many distractions, and I like the routine of going to work. But I’m just one of 26 million Australians, everyone has a different view and, ultimately, can decide for themselves on which works best for them. As we manage a large number of projects, I don’t stipulate one rule for our teams: If you can work remotely and deliver what we need you to, then no issues from our side. Need an office and a desk? We can do that too! The recent pandemic showed that our Internet infrastructure could handle it.

There’s no set rule: It comes down to the individual business and the people within it. Good leaders will be able to manage their teams and their ability to deliver, regardless, so businesses with strong leadership will be fine either way. It will expose those leaders who cannot effectively lead, and it may be a good thing for some businesses to uncover these weaknesses so that they can be fixed.

Ultimately, a good leader should trust their staff to be accountable. If you can’t, then maybe you need to take a look at your recruitment process to ensure you have the right people!

What are your thoughts? Keen to hear what you think. DM me here or email me at steve@projectprofessionalservices.com.au.