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Should my remote team be back in an office?

Many workers are pushed pushing for the return to the office despite being productive while working remotely. Is it really worth it?

Should my remote team be back in an office?

Why do companies want workers back in the office?

While some of the companies have adapted well into the world of remote work, some didn't do so well in the new reality. Lacking a physical office can be a big problem for some teams and some aspects of in-person meetings are challenging to replicate online.

Some of the most common arguments in favour of moving remote teams back into the office are:

1.

Lack Of Spontaneous Interactions. In a remote-only setting, everything requires setting up beforehand which leads to a formal atmosphere and a calendar-guided interaction. Spontaneous moments are harder to come by and casual small talk is not exactly what the productivity tools we use while working were designed for.

2.

Team Bonding & Community. Tools that we use to work remotely are designed for productivity, not for developing long lasting connections between peers. Meetings are scheduled and have an agenda. Yet another pub quiz might not be the most energising way to engage your employees.

3.

Junior Employees & Mentoring. People who entered the job market in 2020 might've never had the experience of working in an office like the previous generations did. Even though productive, they might be missing out on valuable networking and mentorship opportunities.

4.

Control & Trust. A study conducted by HBR showed that managers who cannot "see" the people they directly manage sometimes struggle to trust that their employees are indeed working. The use of surveillance software jumped by a staggering 59% during lockdown and continued to grow according to research by Top10VPN.


Do employees actually want to get back to the office?

A recent study from HBS of 1,500 employees revealed that 81% of them prefer a hybrid model of work or do not want to go back to the office at all. Out of this 81%, 27% would rather work remotely full time and 61% would like to be in the office two to three days a week. Only around 18% of employees want to return to the physical office in a full-time manner.

Should we blame them? Even though we still can't fully replace all of the aspects of in-person meetings with digital, the advantages of working remotely are obvious.

1.

No need to commute. Getting into a physical office every day is a time consuming task. While we've taken this as a granted necessity, recent work from home without a need to travel anywhere has freed up a lot of time.

How much? Check it for yourself with the simple commute time calculator below.

How much time do you spend on commute to work?

On average, how much time do you spend commuting per day?

How many days do you work per week?

How many weeks per year do you work?

  • You spend around 8 hours on travel weekly which amounts to around 45 days of full-time work per year and will sum up to 450 days of full-time work (3600 hours) over 10 years.
  • It's 4 years of full-time work days (9000 hours!) over 25 years.
Assuming that there is around 260 working days in a year and subtracting 30 days for holiday we have roughly 230 days that one would have to commute on. An average London commute is 1 hour each way.

That's 2 hours per day. That's 10 hours per week. 460 hours per year. 4600 hours over a decade. This is not a relaxed going on a trip time in a train - it is stressful rush hours madness, breathing underground air and constantly bumping into a crowd of frustrated commuters who happen to be power walking the opposite way.

To put this into perspective and assuming that an average working day is 8 hours, within a decade one can easily spent 19 months of full time work commuting during rush hours. Around 20 years of commuting adds to almost 10,000 hours which supposedly would put one on a world-class expertise level in terms of being a train passenger.

While some might like commuting there and back everyday, for most it's an unfortunate waste of time, energy and money.

2.

Better productivity while working remotely. When the world went into lockdown, many workers were caught off guard. They were not used to the flexibility and didn't know yet how to be productive while working without an office. Working from home suddenly became a synonym for working remotely.
While the productivity discussion seems to be centering around angecdotal evidence and personal experiences, a study published in 2020 article in Forbes magazine reported a 35% rise in productivity among remote workers.

3.

Custom Environment. Being in charge of your own office space means that one can make decisions on what working setup is the best. Be it noise levels, music, temperature or chair and desk that you select. This can lead not only to a better work output but also to increased wellness. Popular open plan offices are notoriously bad for exposure to noise which can chronically elevate levels of psychological stress.

4.

Location Independence. This point touches a little bit more on the difference between working from home and working remotely. For many, working remotely means freedom to choose one's location on where the work is happening.

5.

Inclusivity. An option for remote work might be particularly beneficial for people with living disabilities. Removing the transporation barriers can help create a disability-friendly work environment and reduce the sensory overload that is required during a rush-hour commute.


So, should we bring our team back into the office?

Unfortunately, there is no right answer to this.

One size does not fit all and the answer should be highly dependent on your business objectives and the team members that you employ. When making this decision, remember that the stakes are high - making your employees go back into the office when they were completely fine and productive working remotely can encourage some high performing team members to quit.

While evaluating the actual resons for getting back into a physical office, it's worth thinking through all pros and cons and most importantly - involving the people who are working on your team into the discussion. It's them that collectively will be sacrificing their time and flexibility.

Make your team feel like a team again

Despite the lack of a physical office, a distributed team should have fun too.

Over the past year we've been working on flat.social - an online platform for virtual meetings which are fun, playful and creative. It's to ZOOM what a cocktail party is to a business presentation.

Hit on the Watch Demo below to see it in action!

Online team activities

Build a Virtual Space for your Team

Remote teams use flat.social to organise the most creative meetings & social events.