Back to....the Office?

Kristin Luck


I’ve worked from home (or, more accurately, airplanes and hotel rooms) for nearly 15 years. After spending the first 9 years of my career working in an office environment, my initial foray into working from home presented some unexpected challenges (namely steering clear of the refrigerator with the exception of mealtimes) and more than a few life optimizing upsides (less interruptions, more focused work!).

To say I was prepared for an extended, travel free, period of “work from home” is an understatement- I’m a “work from wherever” pro. Others….not so much. From struggling with home schooling, trying to navigate video calls while sharing space with a partner or other family members or simply just trying to balance the feeling of always being “on” at work while juggling normal life responsibilities in the middle of a pandemic, many predicted that work productivity would decrease substantially.


The pandemic is a “game changer” for remote work for several reasons, including increased demand from employees, decreased resistance from managers and reduced real estate costs


However, a recent study from YouGov and LinkedIn found quite the opposite to be true. Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive effect on workers’ productivity, according to 54% of respondents in a recent survey of 2,001 adult professionals. The reasons for this, they said, were time saved from commuting (71%), fewer distractions from co-workers (61%) and fewer meetings (39%).

“As folks do start to go back to work in offices and resume their commutes, I think individuals are going to be thinking through what parts of this COVID phase of life are they going to want to keep,” said Maria Flynn, CEO of Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit in Boston that seeks to drive change in the workforce and education systems to improve access to economic advancement. “Is it going to make folks reconsider how much time they want to spend commuting or having more flexibility to work from home?  It’s going to be changing the mindset for the workers as well as the employers.”

The pandemic is a “game changer” for remote work for several reasons, including increased demand from employees, decreased resistance from managers and reduced real estate costs. Global Workplace Analytics estimates a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year – potential savings that more companies might examine now that they’ve had an extended test run with remote working.

“I think we’re going to see a big fallout of that over the next six to nine months as folks are reconsidering their leases and how many square feet they need and downtown offices, and why,” said Flynn of Jobs For The Future.

As employers consider bringing employees back into the office on at least a part-time basis, ensure you keep the following in mind:

  • What are the benefits for both employees and the company for bringing staff back to the office on a full-time basis, versus allowing the option of remote work?
  • How can any health concerns be alleviated given that not all employees may be vaccinated? Or will vaccination be a condition of continued employment? (Businesses can require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 without violating federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws, the agency says.)
  • Consider the different needs of more junior employees who benefit greatly from face-to-face mentoring vs more senior employees who are more likely to work independently.

If you’re a business owner, are you planning on bringing staff back to your office or will remote work be your “new normal”? We’d love to hear your thoughts.