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Should Employees Work From Home or Return to the Office?

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many offices shifted to having their employees work remotely from home.  Now that restrictions are lifting, businesses are evaluating whether to bring everyone back into the office, keep people working remotely, or a combination of the two.  There are definite pros and cons to working remotely versus working in the office.  At P.O.W.E.R., we asked our members for their thoughts on this controversial and timely topic and got some interesting and innovative responses.

P.O.W.E.R. Member Dr. Amy Caryn Redford, DIT states, “Should returning to an office environment be necessary?  It really depends on the position or the person, and how the job is performed within the company.  Back just a couple of years ago, it was necessary to go into an office so supervisors, managers, and corporate executives could guide employees and keep an eye on operations.  In the corporate world today, it has become apparent from the last year and a half during the pandemic that many organizations really haven’t suffered from losing employees or losing their corporate spaces such as tall skyscrapers or large buildings and complexes.  Many office and administrative positions can easily be performed in an ‘out of the office’ environment with few, if any, real problems.  Of course, it takes dedicated employees to stay focused on their jobs while many distractions can take place in the home, like children and pets, chores, and such.  Yet, some research is beginning to show that employees are happier when they are not constantly under the eye of their supervisors and are able to complete complex office functions from home far better, even with home distractions.  Today, it has become all about how to save jobs, save money, save time, and save profits, if at all possible.

Manufacturing positions, and other such jobs, are not likely to be performed from home.  However, the administrative personnel of these companies no longer need to be on-site, particularly for cost-saving incentives alone.  Much of the service-oriented companies may likewise have difficulties keeping many labor-intensive positions out of a building, but housing personnel whose job it is to shuffle paperwork or complete their work on a computer system have found far better ways to complete the work while on virtualized systems.

This is cost-saving, time-saving, energy-saving, commute-saving, family-oriented, and healthier for people, communities, and the planet.  That’s just the start!  Making work more available for people to adjust to their lifestyles, rather than the other way around, is incentive enough.  Being paid the same amount as previously to do the same work from home when there is no cost to commute and no wear-and-tear in their vehicle is incentive enough.  Shouldn’t the cost-savings from the overhead of being in a building for a company be enough incentive, too?  In the age of virtualization, when minimal amounts of hardware and software are needed to work from home and nearly all kinds of services (EaaS, IaaS, SaaS, PaaS) can be so easily rented, what other incentive can there be to stay at home, save money, save time, save effort, and still get the work completed – probably better than before?”

P.O.W.E.R. Member Shamekia Davis states, I’m a Public Health Major.  I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in 2015.  I am currently employed at Northwell LIJ Cohen Children’s Emergency Center.  I can say I am forever grateful that I am able to network and still engage in delivering patient care.  I am an Access Service Representative.  I have observed many of my coworkers experience loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The loss of family members and close friends has impacted the world.  Many of us, children included, have lost touch of that one-on-one personal contact.  To not be able to communicate and hold our love ones has been very difficult and hard to adjust.  Returning back to the office for many organizations and small businesses will remind us that we do care and allow us to be able to readjust back to our normal way of life.  That is the main goal to get back to what we have lost in the past 2 years.”

P.O.W.E.R. Member Kwajalein Waters states, “It is my opinion each organization has to weigh what will be beneficial for the company and employees as a whole.  In my company we have been adapting to a hybrid situation because of the shift in the country.  We need to meet in person to make sure that we have the fellowship of understanding when we see each other because we need to read body language and check to make sure on how each other feels (mentally and physically).  We need to be able to address the issues and come to a conclusion.  Webinars are good, but when you are working on the computer all day you can get burned out.  Therefore, I feel that being in the office is a great avenue and when you need help or a sounding board, they are there for assistance.  However for those employees who need to work from home, making it possible for them to physically come to the office on occasion is a good way to meet everyone’s needs.”

P.O.W.E.R. Member Kiana Simmons advises, “I work from home and it has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  I actually love it.  It gives me more peace of mind and I actually like not being in the office.  I work for Home Depot Cooperate office and they are expanding more Zoom activities for people that don’t want to go back into the office but experience that “cabin fever” at home.  My company has created a virtual break room with a live DJ that we can connect to on our break.  We can partake in the virtual break room and listen to music and actually see and speak with co-workers.  So everything that we need is only a click away at arm’s length.”

P.O.W.E.R. Member Christa Davis advises, “In this day and age, people can and are working from home.  It is working.  People are happy, aren’t they?  Is the job getting done?  Well this is simple.  Things are effective and efficient so let them evolve.  If companies want occasional visits by remote workers to touch base or what have you then sure, have that set up.  I bet the people that have had the privilege of working from home do not like the very thought of having to return to the office for the old ‘9 to 5’ gig.  So my point is to not change things back to what they were when change was the better choice in the first place.  If it is working, why try to fix it?  I would just let things continue to grow and evolve wherever it may.”

P.O.W.E.R. Member Jeanette Hayden states, “I personally think that returning to an office would depend on each person’s situation.  There are pros and cons to both office work and working at home.  The pros of working in an office would be the socialization with co-workers and the better possibility of career advancement.  Working at home can feel isolating and make it more difficult to stay connected with other people who can provide encouragement and ideas that could help someone increase their skills, bringing about a more positive self-esteem, and a feeling that they are an important part of a team.  On the other hand, there are occasions where the workplace is not a positive environment which can cause stress and discouragement.  If an employee is working in that type of environment, the better option may be to work at home, given the opportunity.  Many employees enjoy working at home because it gives them more time and flexibility to enjoy their families.  Working at home can be less stressful when not having to deal with some of the “drama” than can take place in an office environment.  Each individual has a different personality that suits them to one environment over another, so I don’t feel that there is a “cut and dry” answer to which one is better; working from home or working in an office.  Either situation can be ideal if it brings about a successful work outcome for both the employee and the employer.”

There are definitely valid points to be said for both types of working environments.  One thing is certain, remote working has become a valid option and is here to stay.  Businesses have found that a remote workforce can be a smart, strategic move.  To realize all the benefits and create a successful and positive relationship, both employers and employees need to communicate their needs and discuss problems that arise.

**NOTE: Responses from members have been edited for structure and length requirements.

 

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