How to Decide Between an In-Person vs. Remote Workplace
Thinking about going back to in-person or staying remote? Read on to look at some pros and cons of both to make the best decision for yourself.
In the last few years, many traditionally in-person workplaces discovered it was possible to turn their companies fully remote. Now that working remotely is no longer necessary to reduce health risks, companies can make an informed choice between remote vs in person work.
When considering working from home vs office work environments, many people instinctively prefer the option that works best for them. But which option can help your whole team thrive?
We’ll break down the pros and cons of remote working vs office work to help you decide which option makes the most sense for your company culture as a whole.
Working from Home: Pros and Cons
Working from home, one of the biggest future-of-work trends since early 2020, can offer many benefits—but it also comes with some challenges. Taking stock of these benefits and challenges can help you understand how to best support your office workers in hybrid or fully at-home situations.
Benefits of Working From Home
The benefits of working from home go far beyond wearing your sweatpants to work (although the sweatpants are pretty cozy).
Some of the most rewarding benefits include:
- Shorter commute times – Before the pandemic, the average American spent almost 1 hour total commuting to and from the office every day.1 By shifting to working remotely, many employers effectively gave their employees five extra hours a week.
- Cuts costs – From transportation costs, to a work wardrobe, to buying or packing your daily lunch, office life can have small costs that add up over time for employees, making working from home an attractive fiscal option for many.
- Control over your workspace – Everyone knows the frustration of needing to focus on a day when your coworker wants to chat. Working from home lets workers design their workspace to suit their concentration needs.
- More options for workers who are caretakers – Working from home can provide more flexibility for parents and other caretakers. Parents on staff no longer need to choose between making that meeting and staying home with a sick kid. In a remote workplace, they can do both—and some parents even say working from home increases their productivity.2
- More accessibility for disabled workers – Many disabled workers say working from home helps them have a more comfortable and productive work experience, especially on days when their disabilities might otherwise affect their ability to come to work.3
- Allows more travel – Remote work can also allow your employee to travel more, since they’re no longer tied to one geographic location. Whether that means more time visiting family over the holidays, or a summer by the beach, remote work can help employees stay productive while enjoying their time off the clock even more.
- Fewer health risks – People who are immunocompromised, dealing with other health concerns, want to continue taking part in social distancing, or living with someone else who may still prefer to work from home to reduce the health risks that come from working around more people every day.
Challenges of Working From Home
While remote work can offer many benefits, it’s also helpful to stay honest about the challenges employees may face when discussing working remote vs office work.
These can include:
- Fewer chances to form connections with colleagues – A shift to remote work left many people missing their work friends.4 It can also feel harder to make connections with colleagues when you’re no longer chatting at lunch or saying good morning in the elevator. A company return to office work in person can help your employees form these bonds.
- Difficulty asking for help – When you work in the same physical space, it can feel easier to hold a mental map of who’s swamped, and who most likely has time to answer a question or help brainstorm a solution. With remote work, you might reach out to someone without realizing they’re in back-to-back meetings all day, leading to a less effective team overall.
- A distanced company culture – Many offices have unspoken rhythms and professional cultures. For new hires, those can prove harder to learn when sitting alone at home.
- Zoom fatigue – Remote work can lead to an overreliance on video meetings, which in some cases can leave your team feeling mentally and emotionally tired.5 While strong leaders can find ways to mitigate Zoom fatigue (such as well-run meetings with a clear purpose), there’s also something valuable about the unique synergy, ideas, and momentum that can spark from in-person meetings.
Working from the Office: Pros and Cons
Working from the office comes with important benefits that go far beyond the free coffee, but it’s also important to take the challenges seriously when deciding if returning to office work makes more sense for your company.
Here are a few ways working from the office can benefit employees—and a few reasons it may not.
Benefits of Working from the Office
While some people love the freedom of working from home, others value the unique structure and support of an office setting.
Benefits of working together in a company office building include:
- Focused work environment – For people whose homes don’t lend themselves to a dedicated workspace, an office can help provide a productive place to focus on work—and only work. The relationship between workplace design and company culture can help boost productivity for some employees.
- Stronger work-life boundary – Having a separate physical location for work can help workers keep their work and home lives separate, potentially reducing off-the-clock work and helping to create a better work-life balance among employees.
- In-person collaborations – While many digital tools have been created to help improve remote collaboration, there’s still something to be said for the ease and flexibility of popping into a meeting or stopping by someone’s desk to toss out an idea.
- Bonding with colleagues – Many people value their workplace friendships.4 It can also feel easier to develop relationships with people you don’t necessarily work with every day when you’re sharing the same office space or break room.
- Organic learning opportunities for new hires – From observing office culture and behaviors to asking quick questions of teammates, in-person workspaces can provide organic learning opportunities for new employees that may prove difficult to fully replicate in a remote environment.
Some people may also enjoy the daily structure and variety that can come with having to leave home more frequently to head to work.
Challenges of Working from the Office
For many businesses, returning to the office simply makes sense—especially if you thrive on collaboration, creativity, and a strong workplace culture. But if you decide to return to the office, knowing the potential challenges can help you explore possible solutions that could work for your team.
Some of these challenges include:
- Health risks – Immunocompromised people and their housemates can still face serious health risks in an office setting, even when vaccinated against COVID-19.4. If you want to facilitate the return to work of immunocompromised colleagues, your office may need to follow a more cautious COVID prevention protocol, such as mandatory mask wearing.
- Daily costs – Transportation, wardrobe, and lunch costs can add up over time and cut into employees’ budgets. Offices may want to consider offering raises or stipends to help offset costs for employees returning to the office.
- Commute times – For some employees, returning to the office means returning to spending an extra five hours a week commuting. Employers looking to support commuting employees might consider shortening the work day slightly or offering extra time off throughout the year to help make up some of the time lost to commuting.
- Decreased life flexibility – Working in the office can mean less flexibility for workers who are caretakers, disabled, or inclined to travel. Consider offering a certain number of remote work days a year for employees who need or want that flexibility.
- Less control over their work environment – In an office, individual employees may have less control over the spaces they work in every day. Consider how you might be able to create a more flexible working environment—such as by providing work pods or phone booths for deep focus, and allowing employees to choose where they sit each day.
Whether you choose a remote, hybrid, or in-person workplace, preparing for the potential challenges can help you create a workplace that supports your whole team.
Which Option Makes Employees Happy?
There isn’t one set answer to help you decide whether at-home or in-person work will better serve your team’s happiness. Some employees want to work remotely, while others prefer in person.
According to one survey:5
- 37% of workers want to continue working from home
- 54% of workers want a hybrid model that lets them work from the office sometimes and from home other times
- 9% of workers want to return to in-person work full time
Taking the time to ask your colleagues what work environment they want and why they want it can help you alleviate potential concerns about whichever model you choose.
Which Option Do Managers Prefer?
Several high-level executives have publicly expressed enthusiasm for returning to a fully in-person model.
Some of their reasons include:
- A preference for in-person communication6
- A belief that physically sharing a workspace can help colleagues share goals6
- The desire to foster a shared workplace culture4
- Wanting to make efficient use of existing office spaces4
Some workplace experts have suggested the disconnect between worker and manager preferences may also have to do with the difference between worker and manager office environments. For example, a manager may have an office with a door that closes. In other words, they have less trouble controlling their own workplace environment than an entry-level employee sharing their immediate workspace with three other people.
Designing an Intentional Office Model
Whether you prefer working from home, working from the office, or a hybrid model, the past few years have given us the opportunity to act more intentionally about how we design our workspaces.
If we most value the social connection and collaboration of an office setting, we can add more meeting pods and shared desk space. On the other hand, if we’re looking to recreate the intense focus made possible by home offices, then a shift to more private offices and cubicles might make more sense.
Asking your team what worked—and what didn’t work—about the work environment over the past few years can help you design a workplace and work culture that helps both your business and your employees thrive.
Make the Most Out of Your Workspace with Juniper Office
At Juniper, we create workplaces that work for you. With over 100 years of experience in the office furniture industry, we have the expertise and resources to help you design your ideal office.
Whether we’re refreshing an existing office to better meet your needs, furnishing a new office for 500+ employees, or providing the perfect small-space furniture for your home office, we’re committed to helping you meet the challenges of our modern work environment.
We’re ready to help you make your vision a reality.
- United States Census Bureau. Census Bureau Estimates Show Average One-Way Travel Time to Work Rises to All-Time High. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/one-way-travel-time-to-work-rises.html
- The Washington Post. The pandemic gave parents the chance to work from home. Now they don’t want to give it up. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/04/19/work-from-home-parents-remote-flexibility/
- CNN. Remote work made life easier for many people with disabilities. They want the option to stay. https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/10/health/remote-work-disabilities-pandemic-wellness-trnd/index.html
- The New York Times. Office Drama.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/04/briefing/return-to-office-labor-day.html
- Forbes. Want Employees To Return To The Office Full-Time? Consider These Perks. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2022/02/04/want-employees-to-return-to-the-office-full-time-consider-these-perks/?sh=7d2c4a18fcbd
- CNBC. Making sense of why executives are eager to get employees back in the office.https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/08/return-to-office-why-executives-are-eager-for-workers-to-come-back.html
- Applied Psychology. Understanding “Zoom fatigue”: A mixed-method approach. https://iaap-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apps.12360