In the last couple of months, I have read article after article espousing the glorious return to offices around the world. They talk of all the ailments that people working from home supposedly suffer. These include decreased social interaction, feelings of loneliness, isolation, additional stress, and lack of work-life balance. So, while all of those are entirely valid for certain people, they are not a blanket in the way they are being portrayed. They apply especially to people who have kids, live alone, or are more dependent on office the office to supply their social interaction. In my experience, this seems to apply more to older generations who have grown accustomed to being in an office. So, while these can be true, I think that it’s not fair to ignore younger employees who might have an entirely different outlook. I am just over 30, and for me, a return to the office sounds about as much fun as being waterboarded, and I’ll tell you why.
Better Work-Life Balance
One of the major arguments has been that work-life balance went out the window when remote work came into the picture. If you are always home you can’t take a sick day, and you are always on call right? No, or at least, not for most people. Working from home hasn’t destroyed work-life balance for many people, it enhanced it. Imagine for a minute that you have a commute that’s 30 minutes in both directions, and you spend 20 minutes getting dressed and put together in the morning. (We are being super conservative). So, let’s say with 260 workdays in a year, you spend roughly:
(260 days x 1 hour commute) + (260 days x 20 minutes) = 346.67 hours.
So, by cutting out your commute, and not having to get put together on a daily basis you earn yourself roughly 350 hours of additional time to either sleep, read, write, or just generally enjoy life. You get the equivalent of almost 10 workweeks back, and that doesn’t account for traffic, accidents, and all the other day-to-day nonsense commuters endure. So, work-life balance? Yeah, I think it’s just fine.
Less Stress and Way fewer Distractions
Have you ever had a day where you knew going into the office that you had an overwhelming number of tasks to complete? That existential dread that you feel as you walk through the door and open up your computer screen, and just as you are getting into it someone decides to tell you about their weekend. Maybe, your boss needs to go over a few numbers with you quickly, or surprise, you have just a “quick” (45 minutes long) team meeting to attend. You manage to trudge through, put on your noise-canceling headphones and get to work, only to be distracted by 17 other small annoyances over the next 8 hours that sap your ability to get tasks completed. These range from people talking loudly nearby, to having people consistently ask you questions, to just general office shenanigans. Now, let’s take a look at the work from home version of this. You get to your computer, you answer a handful of emails. Quickly find a work playlist (Hyper Potions is my personal flavor of the month), and get to work uninterrupted for the next 3–4 hours until lunch. Working from home allows you to not only control your environment but better manage your mental resources. You can defer meetings, calls, or other tasks in a way simply not possible in an office.
Who Needs Social Interaction Anyway?
This one is much more based on the person than anything else, but hear me out. I am a diehard introvert. I always have been, and likely always will be. Offices were designed for the guys from Mad Men, you know, the Type 1, in your face boisterous type. Those people flourish in an environment like that, but me? I would much rather have my controlled office with a loud mechanical keyboard, loving dog, and comfortable sweatpants. I don’t thrive on social interaction, and the office environment simply forced me to pretend I was someone I will never be. Unfortunately, I don’t want to be involved in the life of my coworkers, and really don’t want them involved in mine. I’ll keep my comfortable pants and home office, please.
It’s Cheaper and You Eat Better
Have you ever thought about the amount of money you spend to go into an office? Some simple back of the napkin math look likes this. This assumes you work roughly 12.5 miles from your house and have a car that gets 25 miles to the gallon.
Gas (~$2.50/gallon * 1 gallon/day * 5 days/week) = $12.50/week in gas
Wear/Ownership/Meaintenance— estimated at roughly .30 cents per mile. (12.5 * 10) * .30 = $37.50
Just using your car costs you roughly $50/week. Add onto that the money you spend to maintain a “work appropriate” wardrobe you likely never wear outside the office, and maybe toss in a few lunches here and there and you are looking at $75–100 week or $3,900–$5200/year in what I like to call sunken office costs. Just take a minute and think what you could do with that money, vacation anyone?
On top of the reduced costs, you also have the opportunity to eat much healthier without nearly as much hassle. Instead of a PB&J you can toss together a fresh sandwich from the fridge, or chop up a fresh salad that hasn’t spent the last four hours sitting in your lunchbox. I know I for one eat much better working from home than I ever did in the office.
The office provides a needed respite for some people, and for others, it can be their sole source of social interaction. For these reasons, companies should maintain some version of an office when the pandemic comes to a close, but forcing everyone back into an office full time simply ignores the needs of a new generation less dependent on those things. Remote work may not be perfect for everyone, but it’s surely perfect for some.