Smart Business Moves: Heading Back to In-Office Work

With the announcement he is requiring all employees back to resume in-office work, Elon Musk weighed in on a polarizing topic now being discussed in boardrooms, headquarters, and small businesses worldwide.

The truth of the matter is there is no one-size-fits-all answer for business owners and managers who are facing this predicament. On the one hand, the job market is tight, and business owners need workers. Many of the hiring candidates are questioning why they need to be in the office all week. On the other hand, most business owners realize their company culture and professional development opportunities for their people can suffer when too many are remote.  

Additionally, workforces are more intergenerational than ever, meaning decision-makers must weigh what’s best for every team member. Ultimately, that may mean a return to in-office work, the setup your business originally began with, and one on which many of your processes are built.

Are People More Productive Working From Home?

There’s no real quantifiable, statistical data to have a strong argument for in-person work, but research highlights virtual work’s impact on innovation and creativity. The results of this study suggest “there is a unique cognitive advantage to in-person collaboration, which could inform the design of remote work policies.”

Productivity can become a real issue for remote teams, too. It’s important to note the respondents in this study were limited to the IT industry. Still, the results point to a decrease in productivity of nearly 20% during a pandemic phase of all-remote working.

That being said, a whopping 40% of those surveyed in this research said they were more productive in their home office than working from a physical office. Again, this only proves the science is unclear about which setup is better for your employees and your business. It’s also subjective to ask remote workers if they are more productive. Of course they will claim they are if they prefer to stay home.

How Does Remote Work Effect Culture?

We can’t have a conversation about remote work versus in-office work without the word “culture” creeping in. The two topics diverge when it comes time to decide how to future-proof operations, but it’s undeniable human interaction is the foundation of your organization’s culture.

Culture comes from people. This recent article in the Washington Post goes so far as to suggest it’s time for everyone to get back in the office five days a week. Older, more established employees may discover remote work is excellent for their busy lives. They’ve also spent time working through their professional journey and spent their early years putting nights and weekends in and working side-by-side with the executives that mentored them.

If these workers choose not to return to the office, it’s hard for younger, less experienced employees to justify a return. This latter group are the team members who may be digitally savvy and perfectly capable of understanding the technical logistics of remote work – and may enjoy it. However, this group can benefit the most from in-person collaboration, communication, and skill-building.

Knowing that, it’s not surprising many organizations will stick with remote work to make everyone happy, and it may work. Still, it’s not something that will offer your organization a competitive edge. Think about answering work emails and messages in off hours: It’s up to you if you want to take some time off, but don’t expect it to be a habit that helps you get to the next level of your career.

That’s not to say you should do away with remote work altogether. If a family member is sick or some extenuating circumstances require off-site work, you can give some leeway for remote work. By keeping these tools at hand, you’ll also have a business continuity insurance plan should you need it in the case of another public health emergency (or even a snow day.)

What Is Proximity Bias?

If you haven’t heard the term yet, you likely will soon as the remote vs. traditional debate continues. In this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it’s defined as;

  1. A tendency to favor people in close proximity to you
  2. Human nature and the way things have worked in business forever

The article warns younger workers that without the informal encounters with company leaders that come with being in the office regularly, they will not only miss mentoring opportunities but could also be passed over for promotions. 

The article further points out that the “hybrid” model where employees can choose to spend a portion of their time at home may not be very “hybrid” after all. Similar to “you are not required to respond to emails on the weekends”, those who do tend to rise faster than those who contribute the minimum requirement.

If the policy allows two days a week from home and the more ambitious employee chooses not to, they will be more likely to be recognized as more committed to the company than their “stay at home” peers. Who do you think would get the edge for a promotion?

What Can Leaders Do?

Deciding to bring your team back to the office full-time isn’t easy, but ultimately, it’s the right move if you’re looking for growth. It has become clear there needs to be room for flexibility; owners and managers need to use remote work to facilitate employee engagement and satisfaction instead of making it a permanent way of life.

This decision must come with a heaping dose of empathy on your behalf. As your team leader, you can choose which workplace setup is best for you, but this is a time to lead with action. If your employees return to the office, you must be there too.

People running a business sometimes feel like they’re only hitting one roadblock after another, especially as we all decide how to best return to in-office work. If you’re in a similar situation, you might be wondering if you’d benefit from having a business advisor in your corner. A proper mentor can bring a great deal of value to the table. With their experience and unique perspective on your business, they can help you push through the barriers currently blocking your path to success.

So long as you have the right mindset and are willing to do what it takes to be successful, we can help your dreams become a reality. The growth you can achieve after addressing your issues will make it well worth the investment. We’re also on hand for whatever needs you have, whether for coaching, consulting, or small business advisory services that can get you back on track.

We have years of experience guiding business owners in countless industries, and we are ready to help you find success — as long as you are too. For more information, contact us online today!