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The Death of Work from Home

By: Renzo Guevara

Just when the workforce is starting to see the benefits of working from home, corporations are now calling back their employees into the office. Does being in the office help with productivity and is remote work just not as effective as we think it is? 

It was fun while it lasted

For a while now, employees have been enjoying the comforts of their own personal spaces as they carry on with their careers. On the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns, people started realizing that all the things being done in the office could’ve really been just an email. And that’s exactly what we did.

Experts believed that working from home is the future as more and more job seekers take into consideration the fact that they can receive a salary while only taking a few steps from their beds to start their day.

Julia Pollak, labor economist for job site ZipRecruiter said that positions that were labeled as “remote” received 300% more applicants compared to the ones that weren’t according to the site’s data analytics.

The amount of freedom a work from home setup gives is an extremely attractive factor to think about especially when the commute to work not only takes a significant chunk of the day, it can also negatively affect health and wellness.

We now have to start wearing pants to work again

Halfway through 2022, companies have shifted their focus towards getting everyone back in the office.

Last March, US President Joe Biden urged people to go back to the offices now that COVID-19 cases have been going down and economic activities are starting to catch momentum once again. That’s easy to say for someone who famously works in their own special house.

Shortly after, a few more officials and leaders followed and announced that they want their people back in the offices. Much to the dismay of the general public.

In the Philippines, the information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry was required by the government to go back to 100% on-site operations for its employees back in April. If the companies don’t follow, they might be disqualified from tax incentives.

BPO workers were thinking about quitting rather than having to face the challenges and health risks present in reporting back to the offices.

Despite studies proving that working remotely can drive productivity levels up by 77% alongside a much happier workforce, the company decision makers would still require their employees to show up in person.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook addressed his company through a memo stating “I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to being together again,”

Comcast’s NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell sharing the same mindset as he addresses his employees saying “I hope everyone is feeling as energized as I am, and that you are looking forward to seeing your colleagues in person again in the weeks ahead,”.

Maybe they just really miss them?

Employees don’t share the same sentiments

There is clearly a disconnect between what the executives want and what the employees want.

Workplace-messaging platform Slack developed The Future Forum which surveyed more than 10,000 employees and compared their perspective of the workplace compared to the higher ups.

It was found that 44% of the executives who were working remotely during the height of the pandemic wanted to go back to the office everyday while only 17% of the employees said the same. It’s possible that this disconnect happens because of a difference in lifestyle between the two parties.

Brian Elliott, the Future Forum’s executive leader and Slack senior vice president said that executives probably have it better than regular employees. “They probably have an office with a door. They probably don’t have the same child care issues as many employees. The risk that we run, as a society, even in a hybrid-work setting, is executives don’t listen to employees looking for flexibility and a real proximity bias sets in among people who are at the office and those that aren’t.”

To be fair for those who prefer working on-site, working remotely makes it significantly harder to build rapport with teammates. This is especially true for new hires and fresh graduates. You can’t expect a team to function efficiently when the majority of their interactions start with “Hello? Can you see/hear me?” and that is if the internet doesn’t decide to have a stroke for that day.

And after two years of being stuck at home, getting back into the routine of going to the office is a nice change of pace. That’s why people around the world are in favor of a hybrid work setup. Some days can be spent in the office with teammates while others can be dedicated to being in the comforts of their homes, or wherever else.

Employees are just now a bit more apprehensive about returning to offices because they have to adjust once again from a much more relaxed setup into a more active one. If there’s anything the past two years have taught us, it’s that companies can still function despite everyone working while still wearing their pajamas. Just something companies can consider.

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