Many of us have seen the predictions: office culture as we know it is never coming back. The effects of COVID-19, and the accompanying diaspora that have left so many workers performing their functions remotely, have many of us wondering if the strictures of 9-to-5 physical office presence makes as much sense as it seems to have made for so long. It even has employers wondering if offering prospective hires the option to work from home will be necessary to remain competitive in the labor market. My answer to that possibility is: it’s simply too early to say.
Similarly, stay at home orders have taught us that Zoom and other communication methods can be quite effective, not only for work purposes, but also for social functions like keeping in touch with friends and family. Once again, it certainly is possible, and may even have some upsides (like staying more frequently in touch with distant relatives and friends) but that doesn’t make it a sufficient replacement for the experience of being physically present in the same room. The unpredictability and tactile nature of in person experiences is a huge boon to our social experience, and I think many of those factors apply equally to our work lives. Being with people and building relationships is extremely important, and I think that is very much the case for many people in offices. Just because we can do our jobs from home doesn’t mean it’s the best way.
That said, could a remote, mobile work option be a perk to offer a potential hire? Absolutely. Working parents are one group who could benefit from a change in that direction, and many other people may perfectly enjoy the option of having a remote work life and having extra time around their home to invest in their social and personal lives. And, frankly, the elimination of a lengthy commute is likely to increase the number of productive hours an employee is able to put in on a day-to-day basis. I know plenty of people for whom this would be a phenomenal pitch: live where you want, travel on your own schedule, and spend the days wherever you choose, as long as you’re able to get your work done.
All in all, it seems like the prospect of working remotely may have its own advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps a middle ground would be to have flexible office hours, wherein employees could travel to and from a central location on a flexible schedule. An obvious downside of this is that it eliminates the benefit employers could hope to enjoy by cutting overhead, but it could be an incredible incentive to the huge number of people who want to work from home sometimes, but not all the time. A survey conducted by IBM back in May showed that 75% of adults would like to work from home occasionally.
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This article was written by Jason David. Jason David is a graduate of the University of Southern California and currently works as a freelance writer and performer in New York City.