In my cozy living room corner, armed with coffee and comfy slippers, I tackle my world’s challenges through emails. Working from home, sure, it has its perks. Extra self-care moments; quality time with family and pets; and no tiresome commute. But, like with any sweet jam, there are pits. Office banter turned into Slack memes, moments of eerie silence, and occasional focus slips. It’s a mixed bag.
Sure, working from home might not be everyone’s choice, and, believe me, I get it. It’s where I’ve wrestled with challenges but it’s also where I celebrated some big wins. In other words, working from home has been the norm for the last three years and it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.
The WFH Potential
In this fast-paced, TikTok-ruled digital age, working from home has pretty much become the new “business casual.” According to the education website Made In Ca, a whopping 90 per cent of Canadian remote workers reported maintained productivity compared to their pre-quarantine office life or a boost to it. Mind-blowing, right?! And it’s not just us feeling this wave. Our friends in the U.S. are riding the same trend, with a game-changing 37 to 48 per cent of jobs posted as remote.
So, why do companies want workers back in the office?
These days, more and more companies are asking employees to return to the office — for at least a few days a week. Why? They claim there will be “better communication, increased productivity and a stronger company culture.” Hmm.. really?
According to KPMG LLP’s CEO Outlook report, 77 per cent of Canadian bigwigs think teams will be clocking in full-time at the office within the next three years. Meanwhile, around the globe, execs are a tad less hopeful, with 65 per cent expecting a full comeback. Maybe they’re just nostalgic for those good ol’ office pizza parties.
Well, TBH, workers aren’t convinced. A recent study suggests working from home is a top priority for women. 42% said they would give up a higher salary if it meant they could work from home as much as they like.
Communication and Collaboration
Some executives are speculating that employers are using the excuse that employees are needed back in the office for collaboration purposes. Samira Amin, the director of marketing at Grand & Toy refutes this by saying, “Using software solutions is all about fostering a sense of togetherness among remote team members. It’s not just about work. It’s about creating a thriving community. We make sure to use tailored collaboration apps that cater to our unique needs. Here, our team members dive into diverse groups and chats, sharing ideas and actively contributing, bridging any physical gaps.”
Here are some tips on how to stay connected and collaborative with your remote team:
- Instant Messaging Tools: Keep it casual and quick. On Slack and Microsoft Teams, use chit-chats and gif-sharing moments to keep it friendly.
- Project Management Software: Instead of getting frustrated in managing multiple people for projects, stay organized with Trello and Asana to sort tasks and track your progress.
- Document Sharing and Collaboration: Who needs another email chain to sort through? Instead of sending docs, team up in real-time with Google Workspace and Microsoft Office 365 for editing and sharing those essential files.
- Regular Check-Ins: Stay connected with video calls or stand-up meetings to keep those communication lines open.
- Social Gatherings and Team Building: Break the ice and forge bonds through virtual and in-person events for increased team spirit
Remote work or in person, ultimately communicating and offering specific, sincere praise are powerful ways to interact. And let’s be real, this doesn’t need to be done in an office.
Cost of Rent
Some executives focus on returning to the office while considering the significant costs associated with maintaining office spaces. High rent costs in prime urban locations represent a major financial burden. The expenses linked to leasing office space, along with additional costs for utilities, maintenance, and furnishings, contribute substantially to the overall operational budget.
While the desire to enhance collaboration and build company culture are genuine concerns, the economic realities of high rents play a pivotal role in driving this push for a more traditional, office-centric model.
According to commercial real estate firm Avison Young, the greater Toronto area’s office market had a vacancy rate of 13.6 per cent, while adding in available sublet space, which was up 42 per cent from last year, brings total availability to 18.1 per cent.
This shift in office space availability isn’t just a numerical blip on the radar. It’s a clear sign that the way we approach workspaces is undergoing a serious change. The pandemic has shown us that productivity doesn’t hinge on being tethered to a desk. With the surge in sublet spaces, businesses are signalling a collective realization: We don’t need offices to thrive. It’s a liberating change that empowers both employees and employers to redefine what a productive workspace looks like in this new era.
“The transition to remote work has led businesses to re-evaluate traditional workspaces and adopt new strategies to support remote employees,” says Amin. She points to the same Made in Can survey “Eight per cent of businesses are strongly considering consolidating their physical office spaces due to remote working options.”
Amin suggests that, despite some executives’ pushing towards in-person work, companies may need to recognize the long-term benefits and financial savings of working from home, ultimately leaning more towards remote work solutions.
Working From Home Shouldn’t Mean a Lack Of Trust
According to the journal HR Reporter, a considerable number of Canadians in the workforce—20 per cent to be exact—feel that trust between employees and their employers has deteriorated. This shift in trust dynamics can engender a range of complications. What is irrevocable is the significant impact on productivity. When employees feel trusted, their focus dramatically improves by 2.1 times. They experience twice the output, and overall work satisfaction jumps to a whopping 4.3 times.
However, restoring this trust is not impossible. Here are my suggestions on how to foster trust among your workmates while working from home:
- Open Communication: Regular, transparent discussions about expectations, successes and failures can foster trust. Sharing this information builds relationships among a team and can help manage expectations for both managers and the team.
- Consistent Feedback: Regular feedback should be both positive and critical, so it can allow for continuous improvement – not just for annual reviews. This may help avoid any misunderstandings, and help build trust.
- Recognition of Efforts: Acknowledging an employee’s work publicly can instill a sense of value and loyalty. Everyone likes to be noticed and appreciated.
- Promote Collaboration: It’s all about teamwork and not competition. Collaboration creates a sense of community among a team, which can cultivate trust.
Doing these things can – not only help rebuild trust that may have been lost – but can contribute to a significantly healthier and more productive workspace. Again, these don’t need to be implemented in a corporate office – just sayin’.
The debate over remote work versus in-office work is a topic that’s sparked conversations in boardrooms and living rooms. But one thing remains clear: the future of work is about choice, flexibility and creating environments for people to do their best work. Regardless if that’s from the comfort of home or within the walls of an office space.
Lead image courtesy Haute Stock.