I've never worked in an office environment with cubicles, but I have worked in offices with open floor plans. There's zero privacy and everything around you is a distraction. Open plans are described as a means for "better collaboration", at least that's how it's pitched to employees and clients. However, it really comes down to cramming more people into smaller spaces so the company can save a buck. Over the past several years, I've had several different roles and consulting gigs where I've been entirely remote from home, and have never been happier. I wanted to write a bit about remote/office work now that there's been push from larger companies to have workers return to offices. I've also been reading the book "Remote" by Jason Fried, the co-founder of Basecamp, where he makes the argument for a distributed/remote work environment.
Having worked in an office environment for four years and being remote for almost six, I can tell you I am just as productive if not more so working remotely than working in an office. Granted this wasn't always the case. Coming up with a to do list and structuring your day takes a degree of discipline. Your attention is just as valuable as your time, health, and youth. In a typically office environment, you're often distracted by people around you, people approaching you asking questions, and people next to you having conversations.
At home, having the ability to mute Slack/messaging notifications to have the ability to focus on something done is crucial, but you also have to set boundaries with those you share a home with. You need to have a dedicated space for work. Having your desk setup in the kitchen is asking for trouble if you're one for snacking, or if others in the household decide to cook some food. I used to have my home office set up in the bedroom, which was a mistake since my partner would regular come in to change, grab something, or take a nap. Your partner also needs to be aware that during work, you will be mostly unavailable. These boundaries need to be established.
We have had the technology for many US-based jobs to be at least partially or fully remote. If the past few years have proven anything, it's that moving most of the workforce to being completely remote is entirely possible. Zoom, Slack, collaborative online docs, email (my favorite), and good ol fashion phone calls are the tools of modern day work. Although I think messaging platforms messaging platforms like Slack, Teams, and Hangouts can be more trouble than their worth with potentially constant interruptions, they can be useful if used correctly (don't ask me how).
Imagine how much time of your life you've wasted sitting in a car fighting traffic, during your commute to work. Not only does this add stress to the beginning of your day, but it's been documented to take toll on your mental and physical health, with an increased risk of obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, and other risks. On top of that, it's a huge waste of time and resources. Working remotely also means burning less fossil fuels. I have turned down more than one job offer because the office was across town with no option to work from home. All this being said, if an office is a short distance from where I'm living, say a 5 to 15 walk or bike ride, with options to work from home if I choose, I think I'd be more inclined to go to the office.
Depending on your line of work, you also have the freedom to structure your day. Personally, I try to keep a consistent work schedule, but sometimes I'll take a longer break to run an errand or switch to a coffee shop.
This also isn't to say there are zero benefits to interacting with your team in person, such as brainstorming sessions and training. But for the most part, the standard office environment ultimately detracts from productivity.
So why the push for returning to the office? My suspicion is that companies are pushing employees to return to the office is due to commercial real estate. Companies have invested large sums of cash on real estate and they don't want to see their investment crumble.
Working remotely, I am not only happier and comfortable, but I am significantly more productive and I can't imagine returning to a full-time office role in a distracting office environment, spending my mornings and afternoons commuting. Of course, this could all change depending on things. Everyone has a price.
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