work from home

Work from home forever? No thanks

I fundamentally disagree with all of the organizations who have made public statements that they will be moving to a permanent work from home model. This early decision seems to be based on appeasing workers fears in the current pandemic. Already Shopify, Twitter, Square and others have announced policies that extend beyond the end of the pandemic. But is this the best decision going forward?

I for one think that the benefit of the office is something that people underestimate. Think of all of the friends in your network you’ve met because of going to work. Maybe even relationships or perhaps you met your spouse in the office or at least, through co-workers. You might have moved cities and experienced parts of the world through travel because of your office location. And think of all the social interactions you have on a daily basis just by being in a different location than the one in which you live.

It will turn loyal employees into gig workers

My main concern is that the notion of loyalty will disappear. By sitting at home and limiting physical and real connections, and I don’t mean through video chat, but real connections to people and the physical office, I truly believe that the notion of employment will rapidly shift from people who were once loyal, to more of a free agent model. As employees get bored and lose interest because of the day-to-day monotony of working from home, they will ultimately be more open to shift jobs more frequently for some of the more basic reasons, specifically money!

Basically, my point is that for people to work from home without an ability to go to an office, it will be incredibly difficult to define and maintain a culture. For the employee that means not feeling that they belong to something bigger than themselves. For employers, a challenge in that they lose one of their main assets that attracts and retains employees. Have you ever been to the campuses of one of the tech giants? If you have you, then will completely understand what you would be missing not going to the office. Snacks, scooters, cafeterias full of conversations, and the ability to just get up and walk to connect with people.

Would it still be as interesting if you couldn’t do all of that?

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15 thoughts on “Work from home forever? No thanks

  1. John Ballem

    It has long been my belief that delivery-focused and administrative roles can be successfully managed remotely. Team management, project management or stakeholder management roles require more face-to-face interaction.
    And in my experience, “corporate culture” isn’t all positive.

    Reply
    1. Corby Fine Post author

      Fair points John, different roles require different access to people face to face. Part of the decision in the end should also be up to the individual and their own needs and desires.

      Reply
  2. Warren Borthwick

    I totally agree Corby! I think that projects that had already been started, with groups familiar working with each other, will be ok but it will be interesting to see what happens with net new projects and brand new teams. I think that people who intermingle at work, both during project meetings and also casually (lunch/coffee/break) will produce better results and be happier than people logging in for daily status meetings.

    Reply
  3. Karen Aboud

    I agree with you Corby as per my experience working for many years in the corporate in-office world and during my 13 years consulting.

    However, I also see some real advantages to having a combination of at-home and at-office for most.
    – less expensive for both employer and employee.
    – less pollution as fewer cars on the roads every day.
    – less sharing of colds and the flu, therefore less disease not only in the work place but through the family.
    – more connections with your kids after school.
    – dedicated days for in-office time to work in teams and share. These in-office days must also be across teams as that’s where a lot of out-of-the-box ideas come from. Plus add information sessions, training and special events at the office.

    Reply
    1. Miranda Smith

      I agree for the most part because I value a culture that has been carefully defined and cultivated. Most corporate cultures though aren’t worth saving. Like the big, behemoth big-bank type of cultures that are essentially defined by the shareholder value and bottom lines. There isn’t much culture to save there since not having an actual culture IS their culture. So those aren’t worth saving, but ours is, and yours is, I’m sure. Cultures that are worth saving can actually still survive without everybody being physically present in an office environment every single day. As a full-time single mom, being able to work from home either full time or a few times a week helps out women a lot because, statistically, they do the lion’s share of unpaid work (physical AND emotional) at home, especially with summer camps being canceled and childcare and school being uncertain for the rest of this year. The flexibility and a lack of commute gives women a better chance at being successful in life all around. My 2 cents!

      Reply
      1. Hilton Barbour

        Corby & Miranda,

        I’m particularly passionate about the culture topic as I believe it really is the only sustainable competitive advantage any organization has. Particularly now!

        Sadly the WFH conversation has, IMHO, been narrowed to a binary discussion about proximity when there are deeper (more ingrained) cultural aspects that we’re still not addressing head-on.

        Some of those thoughts in a post I penned this weekend;
        https://www.hiltonbarbour.com/hiltonbarbourblog/2020/5/30/the-future-of-work-discussion-we-are-not-having

        Reply
  4. Diane DeGroot

    Connecting with people face to face is a part of mindfulness. We need that connection, according to a Harvard study, this is a key factor in people’s happiness. So, I agree with you Corby. Also, what about reading people’s body language when you are negotiating a business transaction?
    Diane

    Reply
  5. Yohan Mahimwala

    While I have seen a handful of companies that you mention take the remote-work approach for 100% of it’s employees, none of the leaders have clarified how they plan to continue to work of having their most key functions collaborate with each other. Allowing a CSR to work remotely 5 days of the week while committing to come into a monthly meeting in person 1 or 2 days a month may actually work well for all the benefits your readers have mentioned. But those with more complex roles that require interaction, collaboration, relational capital etc. will likely transition to working a few days a week from home and a few in the office (as has been the case for many progressive companies already). I think the pandemic will just give us permission to be more intentional about making those decisions based on role as opposed to attention-grabbing headlines that don’t provide much more than PR value.

    Reply
    1. Corby Fine Post author

      Even CSRs working remote require a lot of interaction to train, share best practices and learning from customer engagements, and to be coached and monitored. I think a 100% shift either way is the wrong decision.

      Reply
    2. HIlton Barbour

      Certainly those grand proclamations have gotten much journalist reaction and social media ink. And when you read the fine print (like the Twitter release) these remain “experiments” more than anything else.

      Perhaps the more egregious version is Facebook’s notion of reducing salaries if you choose to work in a more remote (read cheaper) postal code. So rather than being bankrupt living in Menlo Park, they’ll claw back your salary if you choose Boise Idaho or Butte Montana. #sigh #culturesignals

      https://fortune.com/2020/05/21/facebook-permanent-work-from-home-salaries/

      Reply
  6. Debbie Drutz

    Corby – couldn’t agree more for all of those reasons listed above and just for the mere fact that we actually get to move around. Drive to he office, walk around and connect with coworkers, walk to a meeting and walk to lunch. We are missing all of these micro movements that keep our bodies healthy and working.

    Reply

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