July 14, 2021

What did we learn from corporate’s WFH year?

What did we learn from corporate’s WFH year?

Remember like, a year ago when lots of big businesses were saying they weren’t going to require their employees to go back to the office? And then, inevitability they did. A lot of big companies and whole industries (like, banking and wall street,) have gone back to the office. What did we learn from corporate’s ‘year-at-home’? Are industries and office culture really going to adapt to modern WFH life? Or is the 9-5, 5-day-workweek here to stay?

Advantages of WFH

At the start of the pandemic, many companies feared that working remotely would cut done on productivity. After a year, that has proven not to be the case. Many employees feel more productive working remotely. 82% of senior executives surveyed reported seeing productivity levels either stay the same or increase because of working from home. WFH has cut down on something surprising: innovation.

82% of senior executives surveyed reported seeing productivity levels either stay the same or increase because of working from home.

WFH lowers office costs and shortens commutes. Employees like the freedom. 69% of respondents to Microsoft’s WFH survey said that the main reasons liked working remotely were: dressing more casually, being able to personalize their workspace, and having their pet by their side. Working from home also cuts down on casual workplace interruptions. That same Microsoft study found that before WFH, workers felt like 52% of their workday was wasted due to unnecessary disturbances. That number has fallen to 41% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Michael Parke, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who worked on the Microsoft study, said: “It seems that employees are able to hunker down and get less distracted while working remotely… However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others.”

Office-Hybrid-WFH positives and negatives

“However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others.”

Michael Parke

Disadvantages of WFH

Working remotely means it’s hard to connect with coworkers, both for formal communication as well as for personal connections. This has had a direct impact on companies’ ability to innovate. The Microsoft study reported that the percentage of leaders who felt that their companies were innovative dropped 16% in 2020. Without sharing a physical space brainstorming and collaboration is more difficult. It’s harder to come up with new ideas as well as enact them.

The overnight and “temporary” switch to working remotely has created many challenges for employers and employees alike. WFH on this scale is such a new thing that solutions to challenges and long-term repercussions are still very much unknown. Being aware of challenges as they come up is the only way for companies to work on effective solutions.

What About Hybrid Offices?

As companies transition back to the office, many bigger companies aren’t seeing it as all or nothing: office vs. WFH. Many companies are trying a hybrid workplace. For example, the London based bank, StandardCharter is pushing and incentivizing a hybrid office model across its global offices. They plan to create smaller office hubs and give employees the choice to work at the office or at home. They are suggesting that employees meet at the office regularly to check in and collaborate. Building We-Work style office spaces will help solve technology deficiencies in their branches in developing countries and will lower costs across the board. 

Facebook is also moving to a more hybrid work model. However, they are allowing it more than promoting it. Their current policy is that any full-time employee can request to WFH. Some jobs such as data center maintenance and hardware development will not be allowed to work remotely. They are also planning to adjust salary based on where you decide to work. It is a lot cheaper for the employee to work remotely from a city in the Midwest. (For example, the cost of living in San Francisco, CA is 199.8% higher than it is here in Omaha, NE.) Facebook is going to open all their US offices up to 50% capacity in the fall. Meaning, that almost 30,000 employees will continue to work remotely.

How has the last year of WFH impacted entrepreneurs?

Many people took the opportunity of disrupted work to start new businesses. Many people liked the freedom and flexibility that working from home offered and decided to leave their corporate jobs and pursue entrepreneurship.

“Americans submitted an average of 111,000 applications for new businesses per week between the end of June 2020 and the beginning of September 2020, the most applications submitted per week since 2007.”

U.S. Census Bureau

How do many people feel about going back to the office?

A lot of banks and tech companies went back to the office last week. How do their employees feel about it after working from home for a year and a half? Of the over 1,200 employees and 133 executives surveyed at the end of last year, 55% said they would prefer to still work remotely at least 3 days a week. Along with the loss of flexibility and other perks WFH offers, going back to working surrounded by people can be daunting. A scary as it may be, it will show your employer and teammates your commitment to your job and flexibility in dealing with transitions. Which will be really appreciated! If you are feeling anxious about the return, talk to your boss. Your company may be more open to a hybrid office than you think.

There is never going to be a complete consensus to the question: is WFH better? Every business, every office, and every employee will have a different opinion and method that works best for them. It doesn’t really matter what your company decides to do, as long as it’s the right fit for you.

Do you think a hybrid office is effective?

About Skyler Schreck

Skyler is a Marketing Assistant at First Direct. Prior to First Direct, she worked as a freelance graphic designer. Content creator by day and content consumer by night, Skyler's hobbies include reading, snacking, and binge-watching all available shows.