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WFH vs Office: 7 Reasons Why We Should Have Our Cake And Eat It

As we are expected to start going back into the office, we realise it won't be the same as before.

Working from home has seen benefits for many of us. Benefits every one of our customers say their employees have been hesitant to give up. (*ed note: 'hesitant' is a bit soft, given the widespread threats of resignations and hiring difficulties that have been reported.)

In England, those commuting into the office from outside London typically have to get up before daybreak to make the average 74 minute journey to work . The very thought of returning to those dreaded early mornings, packed bleary-eyed onto the sardine tubes of the underground rail, is, for many of us, an unwelcome prospect.

Commuting by train in the snowy mountains.

Now we aren't saying trains are terrible..but not every commute is equally enticing.

Yet, as the imminent threat of Covid starts to diminish with increased population immunity, many of our bosses are beginning to ask their employees to return to the office

Lockdowns are coming to an end across the world, coinciding with the long-feared email; "An Update on our WFH - Return to Office Strategy"... These invariably start with an enthusiastic opener, reminding us how much we must be missing the office and longing for the good old days to return. It's no enviable task for the person delegated to making their colleagues feel enthusiastic about giving up 2.5 hours of family and recreational time each day for commutes. (Even longer if commuting from SF to Silicon Valley.)

What Work From Home Benefits Do We Fear Giving Up?

There are a great many benefits of working from home, outside of reduced commuting time.

1. Distraction-Free Focus

The hot office trend pre-Covid was the ubiquitous open-floor plan. The enemy of introverts and the foe of quiet concentration.

Noise levels on particularly bad open-floor plans can reach a whopping 60 to 65 decibels. A motorway (or highway for our US friends) is only 85. It's a no-brainer that cerebral computer work can be done with much greater focus when working among your friendly and oh-so-quiet pot plants than when overhearing 20 simultaneous conversations.

2. Greater Autonomy To Work At The Most Productive Times

Everyone is unique in which times of day they are naturally most productive. Some day-larks thrive with 6AM starts, with half a day's work completed by the time other colleagues are just getting started. Night-owls, on the other hand, can work until the small hours of the morning, coding away in their high-focus zones, listening to lowfi-hip-hop radio streams on YouTube... Or maybe that's just me.

Mandating that everyone needs to be seen to come into the office, starting and leaving at the same time, negates the natural circadian rhythms that make people more productive at different times. It's much easier to self-regulate your daily productive sprints when you don’t have to give off the impression of always working more diligently than your peers.

3. Family Life

Our jobs may revolve around 9-5, but our families don't. Childcare responsibilities can be split more evenly between couples if both partners are physically located closer to their children. Having to make a forced decision over who will commute for work, and who will stay close enough to home to accommodate school drop-off and collection times isn't such a difficult choice if both parents can be productive from home.

4. Businesses Can Save up to £10K a Year Per Person

Various studies (E.G. 1, 2, 3), show that businesses can make substantial cost savings by having employees work from home, either full or part-time. Reasons for this include:

  • Reduced real estate costs: With fewer desks needed, businesses don't need to rent such large offices.
  • Reduced supply costs: Hundreds of single use highlighters add up!
  • Reduced utilities costs (heating, lighting, internet, water): If there are fewer people in the office, fewer utilities are consumed.
  • Reduced facilities servicing costs (cleaning, security, maintenance): There's no need to clean or protect physical offices if they don't exist.
  • Reduction in sick days: Employees working from home are less likely to get sick in the first place and are shown to be less likely to take a day off.
  • Increased productivity: Many jobs can be done more effectively from home. Not all mind you - you can't lay pipe or weld joints from home.
  • Reduced attrition: If employees are on board with the flexibility of an organisation's work from home policies, they are less likely to want to leave.

Office Work Can't be All Bad, Right?

It's not all doom and gloom. There is a bunch to be excited about with the prospect of coming together in person again. Benefits of office work include;

5. Serendipitous Innovation:

Often known as watercooler conversations, the unexpected chats with folks you don't have scheduled meetings with are famous for creating some of the most innovative new products. Creativity and innovation can be impacted if following a strict WFH-only model. Days that are packed from dawn to dusk with scheduled Zoom meetings, having fixed agendas with just those peers in your immediate working group, can lose the unexpected coming together of colleagues working in different parts of the business. True innovation is fuelled by people from different backgrounds and projects connecting, identifying opportunities and sharing learnings from their own experience. These chance meetings are notoriously difficult to predict and often come about due to overheard snippets of conversation, friendly social introductions and banter between intense rounds of MarioKart.

6. Mentorship:

This is especially important at the start of people's professional careers. The value of mentorship can best be realised through in-person opportunities to connect, share and learn. Many subtle nuances of interpersonal communication are lost via patchy video hangouts.. Quick coffee catch-ups and informal walking talks are some of the best ways to establish working relationships.

7. Empathy:

There's a certain strain that comes from sustaining a beaming smile over Zoom for 8 hours a day. Humans communicate and read each other through micro-expressions that can be lost over video chats. WFH teams that formed pre-Covid report higher productivity, trust, and friendships. Meeting face-to-face is hugely beneficial for team cohesion, and we are seeing a lot of customers using WiggleDesk to organise 'team-together’ days to help foster team development.

Having Your Cake and Eating it

Having Your Cake and Eating it

At WiggleDesk, we believe the specific nature of a given day's work should be the main decision point that employees take into account when deciding whether to work from home or the office.

It doesn't make sense for a software engineer to spend 2.5 hours commuting if they will be wearing noise-cancelling headphones and coding all day. However, that same person may wish to come in for an afternoon to have a creative ideation whiteboarding session with their colleagues. When that engineer does come into the office, they may want to get some coding done in the morning, and will want to ensure they have an available workspace with a dual-monitor-mega-charging-dock-standing-desk setup, and to sit close to their fellow engineering teammates. It's here that WiggleDesk comes in, quickly helping them find the best space at the most convenient time, near the right people, and with the necessary facilities.

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Today's Interesting DataPoint

Did you know, according to a recent McKinsey study, 47% of all jobs in the UK alone can be performed at least 1 day a week at home, without losing any measurable productivity?

What is WiggleDesk?

WiggleDesk is the easiest way to roll out and manage hybrid working in your organisation.

Get set up in 10 minutes, more info here.