Cats vs Dogs, Cricket vs Football, Working out vs Netflix; everyone has their own preferences and reasons behind those preferences vary from person to person. The preference comparison that has taken the corporate world by storm, especially in 2020, is work from home vs work from office- which working environment brings out the maximum potential of the worker and the organization? This debate has been around ever since the world started shifting towards digital technology as its primary mode of consuming, with proponents of both sides providing conflicting yet sensible arguments for their stance. Those who prefer work-from-home (WFH) setups argue that it gives their routines some much-needed flexibility, while supporters of the work-from-office school of thought propound that the entire point of an office environment is to create an atmosphere that encourages effort and promotes teamwork.
However, this debate is no longer one that is open to deliberations at present. Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic that gripped the world, work from home vs work from office seems like a redundant discussion as the former has become the norm for most companies. The question that is now being posed, is this- which method is going to be adopted moving forward? This article attempts to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of both and give you a balanced perspective on what the future of work culture is going to look like.
Work From Home: Pros and Cons
Picture this: you’ve woken up at around 9am and have been employed in your current position for a couple of months now. Your work hours begin at 9:30, but the commute is going to take at least an hour. The next image that pops up in your mind is that of a disgruntled employer who is reevaluating his decision to hire you, isn’t it?
Benefits of WFH
There are many such scenarios where a work from home setup is beneficial for both the employer and the employee:
1. Reduced/No Commute
One of the major positives of working from home is the elimination of commute. On an average, people in India spend at least 2 hours in a day, traveling to and from work. This not only wastes time they could otherwise be spending productively, it also hampers work-life balance greatly. If a person works a regular 9-to-5 (or 6) job and is spending 7% of their day in traffic, it’s natural for them to feel like they don’t have a life outside of work. However, when your work can be done from the comfort of your couch, it doesn’t seem as cumbersome as before.
2. Better Work-Life Balance
It is extremely important to realize that work is not the be-all-and-end-all of things. There is a life that you have outside work, but sitting in an office for almost half of your day makes that seem like a lie. Moreover, a rigid schedule packed with work can cause employees to burn out rather quickly. Most employers who provide their employees with the option to work from home also give them the flexibility to choose their working hours, which means that workers can start and end their day as they choose, as long as their work is complete and leads to strong outcomes. This control over your work schedule is invaluable when it comes to attending to the needs of your personal life.
3. Saves Money and Reduces Carbon Footprint
Working from home cuts costs for both sides- the employee is not required to spend money on traveling, food and other miscellaneous costs they occur throughout a working day; meanwhile, corporations save big on energy spendings and other related expenses which would have been unavoidable in an up-and-running office setup. While these steps are a boon for your wallet, they’re also a blessing for the planet- reduced commute implies fewer vehicles on roads, which inadvertently contributes towards making our environment cleaner; a sore need of the hour.
Pitfalls of Work From Home
So there are some serious merits to working from home. However, it is not without its challenges:
1. Teamwork and Organizational Growth
By its very nature, working from home is a hindrance to teamwork. To make things easier for employees, work schedules are usually fragmented according to their job descriptions and as long as their daily quotas are met, things can flow smoothly. However, a single obstacle can set the entire team off-track.
Coordinating with multiple people over the phone or via video calls, while possible, is an inefficient way of tackling issues because it does not allow face-to-face interactions. It takes a lot of time to get ideas across for approval over a Zoom call where 10 other people are competing for screen time. Thus, Working from Home can dampen teamwork and lead to disarray.
2. Productivity Trap
Popular polls will tell you that a majority of people feel like they are much more productive when working from home. However, but this feeling is only translated into actions when you have a set routine- which is integral for maintaining a steady stream of output. While the trappings of home are comforting, that very aspect can turn out to be counter-productive.
Procrastination can blossom unbridled at home, or worse, you might find yourself overexerting yourself. Working by yourself can also cripple your creativity. Thus, working from home doesn’t always guarantee results.
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Working From Office: Pros and Cons
Despite the many merits of working from home, the fact remains that the office space is sacred.
Benefits of Working from an Office
Rather than simply providing an isolated space where employees contribute towards the growth of an organization, the importance of offices lie in the kind of output they generate:
Face-to-face communication is the clearest and most productive form of communication in a corporate setting. It’s not only beneficial when planning for business, it also strengthens relationships and rapport with other employees. The kind of relationship-building that happens when you sit next to someone or bump into each other at the coffee machine cannot be found anywhere else. The chain of command, the daily tasks that you need to fulfill- they all fall into a seamless communication structure which identifies and corrects shortcomings almost as soon as they are detected and ensures that only the best output is generated.
Every company has a definite structure which is undisputable, no matter the circumstances under which one works. Every employee is answerable to a higher authority and it is through meticulous coordination and feedback that the ideal output is created by an organization. This cycle is only possible when the manager is on the floor with the workers, keeping an eye on what is going on, spotting errors as soon as they are made, giving precise directions to a struggling employee and regulating the overall workflow. The moment things go digital, management becomes a hassle, and work is more often than not either subpar or delayed.
Disadvantages of Working from Office
While there are certain obvious reasons to keep going to your offices, there are obvious disadvantages as well:
1. Rigid Organizational Rules
In an office setup, you get to decide very little. Your work hours are fixed, your commute is fixed, and your scope of work is more or less predictable as well. Working from an office is all about following a strict office timetable. No matter your personal problems or that are circumstances working against you, come rain or sun, you must be at your desk every day before your superiors notice a delay.
The ever-mounting pressure only serves to weaken your mental and physical health, making you more susceptible to a burnout.
2. Work Environment
One of the key aspects of the work from home vs work from office debate is the kind of work environment the organization fosters. It is no surprise that to survive in a corporate setting, one needs to have skin as thick as hide. Your work environment has the power to make or break your productivity-streak and motivation.
Employees don’t have much of a choice in or control over their work environment within an office setting. Whether it is an annoying co-worker or other logistical issues, you just have to go along with it. At home, one has the option to optimise their workspace as per their requirements and preferences.
Work From Home vs Work From Office: Where does the Future Lie?
The work from home vs work from office debate is one that perplexes even those who benefit from either school of thought, because the merits of the other are too lucrative to overlook. However, we believe the answer might lie in striking a balance between the two. Dividing the working week into days where employees work from home and days where they have to report to the office can not only maintain the positives of a work-from-home environment, it can eliminate the stifling of creativity and flow of work in an organization. On days that employees visit the office, brainstorming and meetings can run asunder and these ideas can be translated into the finished output at home. This gives both employers and employees the opportunity to have a desirable work-life balance, and provides the ideal system of work optimised for the future.
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