Realty Check: Office or Work from Home


We are almost a year now into one of the biggest pandemics of recent times. As the virus has crippled the world, people are losing lives and jobs. One of the biggest unknowns that businesses are poised with is the future of work. As businesses have been navigating a remote work model for the last few months, many businesses are looking forward to returning to physical offices. Again, several companies like Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc., have adopted a complete work from home model. Needless to say, that COVID-19 is reshaping the world and doing it pretty fast. At this juncture, businesses need to pause and re-evaluate their operations strategy for 2021 and beyond. This article talks about different work from home and works from office options and its pros and cons.

Remote working Vs. Work from home

Work from home gained immense popularity in 2020 as more and more people were forced to work from home while staying quarantined and maintaining social distancing. However, one needs to understand that work from home is not the same as remote working, although both terms are overly used as synonyms. Remote working is a broad umbrella which can have different working models like:

People who work from home
People who work on a flexible schedule from a remote location
People who use co-working space or cafes
People who sometimes visit a physical office, although they work remotely

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At this juncture, businesses need to pause and re-evaluate their operations strategy for 2021 and beyond.

- Chayanika Sen

Broadly speaking, remote working means when the employees work from a remote location. This location can be the person’s home, a co-working space, a café, or even a beach! The person can work remotely from any location as long as a laptop and internet connection is there. Some employees may also choose to work remotely but are available to come to the office a certain number of times in a month to collaborate or brainstorm with other colleagues. Further, employees can work fully remote or partially remote, depending on your business requirement. While fully remote employees can work from anywhere in the world, partly remote employees need to come for a few hours at work. So, they need to stay close to the office location.

On the other hand, a work from home model means your employees are supposed to work from an office location but may choose to work occasionally from home. Work from home employees need not always be remote employees. You can work a few days from home and the rest of the days from the office. Occasional work from home gives a significant change in the work environment and is often welcomed by employees. But in the current situation, when people are forced to stay indoors, work from home is the only available option. While occasionally working from home, you can work sitting on a sofa or at your kitchen table. Prolonged work from home requires a lot of adjustment, including setting up a dedicated home office.

Benefits of work from home and remote work

There are several benefits to working from home. Some of the obvious ones include:

Flexibility

Your employees don’t have to work the usual 9 hours a day or stick to a 9-5 routine. If you’re offering flex work benefits, your employees can log in at any time and get the work done within the stipulated timeline. This arrangement works great if you have a global team working in different time zones.

Telecommuting

Employees who work partially in a remote model or a hybrid model are flexible to come to the office as and when needed. Telecommuting works great for employees who occasionally need to go to the office to stay in touch with their peers. Telecommuting helps employees maximize their productivity while not putting them at risk associated with travelling and exposing them to the risk of contracting the virus.

Challenges of remote work or work from home

Know that work from home or remote working may have its own sets of challenges. For example, your employees may find it difficult to transition from an office working model to a remote working model. If this were a long-term arrangement, they would need assistance to set up the home office. Employees often struggle to switch off and maintain a work-life balance as work hours tend to get stretched. And finally, your employees might not be ready for a remote working model. They may feel lonely, miss the colleagues’ physical interactions, and not be prepared for the transition. Know that as a responsible employer, you may need to extend support to help your employees settle in a remote or work from home model.

Creating a work from home strategy for your organisation

If your business allows, remote work models can be of great benefits. While you save overhead costs and encourage employees to follow social distancing norms, employees can benefit too. It allows them to stay at home, be more productive, take care of their personal lives, and work on their schedules. However, while creating a remote work strategy, keep in mind the organisation’s best interest, your employees’ requirements, and overall, what suits your organisation’s culture.

Remote work policies can work well for small businesses even after the pandemic and the lockdown is lifted. While the COVID-19 has forced small business owners to allow their employees to work from home, they are now slowly realizing its benefits in the long run. A survey conducted by Small Biz Trends revealed that small business owners have noticed that employee availability has gone up by 19 percent and life satisfaction by 7 percent. The survey also revealed that employees are happier and more productive after moving to the work from home model. The survey further revealed that small business owners have been leveraging different technologies and tools to facilitate their work. Eighty-four percent of small business owners have now started using video conferencing, and collaboration tools post the pandemic to help their employees coordinate better.

Returning to office post-COVID-19- How is it like?

While many businesses are switching to a completely remote work mode, many companies consider returning to the office while navigating through the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have thrown upon us. Returning to the office is one of them. If you’re considering returning to the office, here are some pointers to keep in mind.

Putting safety first

The top concern of management at the moment needs to be the health and safety at the workplace. This is the moral, ethical, and legal concern for businesses at the moment. Safeguarding the employee’s well-being is of paramount concern to companies because no company can succeed without them. Along with cleaning and sanitizing the office spaces, it is also important to create employees’ guidelines. You also need to consider whom you want to bring back to work and who can continue to work from home depending on their job roles. 

Lead with empathy

While you put the safety and well-being as the top priority of the employees, know that you need to deal with empathy. All of us have been going through a crisis, and some employees might have experienced the worst, like the death of a loved one or themselves recovering from the virus, and might be sceptical about returning to the workplace. Hence it will require the leadership team to deal with a lot of empathy. 

Work on a return to office strategy

Are you considering a 100 percent return to the office or planning for a staggering return? You may also opt for a hybrid model where few employees can be at office, for those who are working in factories and plants, while other employees can work remotely.

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know that your decision should be based on the business objective, company culture, and above all, the sentiments and well-being of your employees.

- Chayanika Sen

What it means to have an office space

If you have a growing business, you may want to have more space for your business. But the obvious question that comes to your mind is should you buy or lease space? Let’s look at each of the options and understand which will be more optimized in terms of revenue and cost as we navigate through the pandemic.

Pros and Cons of buying an office space

There are many benefits to having your workspace. If your workspace is large enough, you may consider renting out a portion of it and adding another income source. The most significant benefit of buying a space is that the value appreciates with time, so you can always sell it out later when you need liquid cash to expand your business. However, there are some drawbacks too. For example, you need to take care of the repair and maintenance and all the other associated overheads. A growing business may experience unexpected needs in the future. If your office space becomes inadequate or irrelevant, you may need to sell it off. Buying commercial property also involves upfront costs, which means you need to block a large portion of your liquid cash.

Pros and Cons of leasing an office space

If you want to have your office in a prime area and high image, leasing can be a good option. If you are into the retail or restaurant business leasing the space is always a better option. It is affordable compared to buying a property, and you can always move to another location if the location doesn’t work out for you. Leasing also helps to free up your working capital. You can use the real estate fund for the expansion of your businesses. We all know that ownership comes with a lot of challenges. A leasing option releases you from those challenges so that you can focus better on your business operations.

However, it has some challenges too. For example, leasing means you are subjected to an annual rise in rent, which may cost you more once the lease expires. Unlike buying, leasing doesn’t add to your equity. However, you need to get into the property management business when you own one, although your core business is something else.

Co-working space

The immediate prognosis about co-working space in the COVID era is it may kill the co-working space culture. And that makes a lot of sense because it brings in a lot of strangers under one roof. Sharing desks and workstations may poise the risk of catching the virus. However, co-working spaces may become a viable option for businesses in 2021 and beyond. If you need a handful of employees to come to the office or plan to de-densify your employee strength, co-working spaces may come in handy. Since co-working spaces work on the periphery of the local economy, co-working spaces would come in handy, especially for small businesses. So, you may want to rent a floor and have your employees come to the office in a staggered manner if you are looking at going back to the office.

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Wrapping Up

The COVID-19 had hit us hard and halted businesses for several months. But it’s time to get up and get back to work. There are several options – to work from home, work remotely, or to go back to the office. If you’re looking to get back to the office, you can have your own office space, rent a coworking space, or lease a space that suits your business needs. However, know that your decision should be based on the business objective, company culture, and above all, the sentiments and well-being of your employees. Remember, it is time to work collaboratively, keeping health and safety as the topmost priority. For further insights, read our article on the ‘Future Of Work Trends Post Covid19: Employee Expectations‘.

Chayanika Sen
Chayanika Sen
Over a decade of experience in Corporate Communication Chayanika writes on Human Resources, Recruitment, Marketing, Employer Branding and Thought Leadership.

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