The Office Culture Revolution: 3 Key Benefits of Working From Home
Smaller offices, lower lease costs, and more working from home.
There are three key benefits for businesses and employees with the increasing normalization of working from home. These are possible boosts to flexibility and productivity, as well as lower costs for office leases.
I’ll elaborate on this later on. But first, I’ll cover which industries are likely to be affected by the remote working revolution, which will miss out, and why it’s all happening.
Why working habits are changing in some industries
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that many workers have been forced to stay at home by lockdown measures. Many of these people are now unable to do their jobs, but others can continue working.
Although work from home policies have already been implemented by some companies, lockdowns have forcibly sped the adoption process up.
In Australia, 30% of people can work from home. Prior to lockdown, in the UK less than 30% of working people had experience working from home. However, this has risen to 49.2% of UK employees since April 2020. Forbes also estimates that 37% of all jobs in the US can be done from home.
Many people can’t work from home since their jobs require physical interactions with other people or engagement with the physical environment.
Some examples of work that cannot be done entirely from home include policing, healthcare and retail jobs, transport service roles like bus, train and taxi drivers and conductors, as well as agricultural and hospitality jobs.
So, the remote working revolution will not directly influence the entire economy, but it will still affect between 30% to 50% of jobs. This is a considerable chunk. The industries most likely to be affected include predominantly white-collar, digitally-focused jobs like software engineering, IT, finance and insurance, education services, and even the legal industry.
In the short- to mid-term, we all expect that workers in some sectors will remain working from home for the foreseeable future.
Due to restrictions imposed on gatherings indoors, social distancing, and economy lockdown measures, we therefore understand that people’s working lives will not resume entirely as usual for some time.
However, some people may be expecting that the world’s work culture will eventually go back to the normal we all experienced before. I do not think this will be the case.
We have already seen Twitter set the trend by stating that all of their employees can work from home forever if they want to.
In this vein, I think after lockdown, working from home will become more normalized in roles and industries where physical engagement with other people and the environment are not essential aspects of the job.
What was previously an occasional luxury granted by generous bosses who value the flexibility at a few companies will become more commonplace. And I think this has clear benefits for both employers and employees.
I’ll now go through 3 key benefits I think there are for both employers and employees with the more widespread adoption of working from home policies.
The 3 key benefits of working from home
As I mention, Twitter has announced that all its employees are welcome to work from home if they want to. Once the lockdown eases, the company will not abandon their offices entirely.
Instead, Twitter has paved the way for people to receive more autonomy from their employers about how they work. In essence, they’ve said: if you can work from home, and you want to work from home, then go for it. However, it should be clarified that they haven’t said their employees must work from home after lockdown.
Once the lockdown eases, I don’t think we’ll see companies move to total remote working policies on a wide scale. Even GitHub, a company famous for its remote-working structure, has central offices.
Nevertheless, that GitHub enables its employees to work entirely from home should they so choose helps the company hire global talent. It’s a win-win situation for both individuals and companies. We may see more companies adopt GitHub’s flexible ethos.
We may also see more companies develop flexible policies that enable employees greater choice and autonomy in how they work.
Some companies may choose not to offer a global remote-working option like GitHub, opting instead to hire only people who live within their cities’ commuter-belts.
However, we will see more companies adopt policies like Twitter’s, which allow employees to work from home if they want, whilst also offering offices for employees to work alongside and meet with colleagues and clients in.
There are, of course, many social and entrepreneurial benefits to working in offices. Lockdown will not spell the death-knell for the office.
However, the ways people use office space will change, as more people work at home when they can, making the most of the office not as a compulsory environment, but as a creative and collaborative hub and the hive of collective activity.
Picture the typical working day for people under normal circumstances. They wake up, wash, maybe eat breakfast if they’re lucky, then jump in the car or onto a busy train or metro to work.
Then they do their work, probably buy an expensive, pre-prepared lunch with processed ingredients, then commute back home again, possibly on cramped, smelly, sweaty public transport again.
It should be immediately obvious that people who work from home are likely to make fewer journeys than people who commute into offices every single day.
For those who drive, this means less congestion in cities and lower emissions from cars. It means less discomfort for users of public transport.
Finally, it also means people save time. If people work from home 3 days a week, and the average door-to-door commute is 60 minutes, people could save 6 hours a week.
This translates to 13 days a year, or over the course of a lifetime, 520 days: this is equivalent to nearly a year and a half of life!
If you’re driving, you need to focus on the road. You may be able to half-focus on the radio. If you’re commuting on public transport, there’s a good chance you’re squashed into someone’s armpit. Commuting is tiring and time-consuming.
Commuting is a hassle.
It’s a needless chore for people who can do their jobs fine at home. What’s more, 520 days saved over a lifetime translates into a lot of extra time left over for work and productive personal development. This one’s a no-brainer, come on.
It’s pretty obvious for the driven and the self-disciplined that more time at home rather than the rails or the roads could free up time for productive work and personal growth. It could also relieve the irritating fatigue of commutes, resulting in higher working standards.
Implicit in all this there is also the possibility that less commuting could make valuable contributions to a greener world.
And finally, fewer car journeys equals lower fuel costs, and three days at home a week makes exorbitant season ticket fares redundant. Our wallets will thank us for working from home too.
3. Office downsizing, lower costs
Efficient businesses develop efficient systems of cost-management. If you’re a savvy boss and you recognize the changing landscape of business is likely to mean you’ll have fewer people coming into the office, then are you really going to spend all that money on expensive high-rise city-center office-space, half of which may now remain empty most of the time?
Fewer people coming to work every day means companies won’t need so much desk space. Office providers usually charge per desk or per-square-foot, so downsizing is an effective cost-management tactic in an evolving business environment.
Efficient businesses will develop clever rotas to ensure that now-limited office-space is neither too empty to provide value for money, nor so full that it is overflowing.
And ensuring business expenditure is managed effectively on office-space as well as other costs will be essential when businesses try to recover from the economic downturn caused by the lockdown.
Office-space is not cheap, especially in expensive cities like London, so rises in employees working from home may convince bosses they don’t need as much of it.
When it costs more than £400,000 a year to hire an office for 25 to 30 people in London’s Canary Wharf, the advantages of reducing how much office space a company hires becomes obvious when half the workers may be at home at any one time.
It is clear that there are possible economic benefits for businesses if the work from home revolution does take place.
Lockdown has forced many companies to quickly adapt to work-from-home routines and regimes.
While people are itching for life to return a little closer to normal, and while bars, pubs, and restaurants are desperate to receive them once again, in some industries thoughts that office culture could change permanently and for the better cannot help but linger in the collective mind.
There are evidently benefits for both employers and employees. More autonomy and choice endows individuals to work efficiently and effectively in the familiar comfort of their homes, all while saving money on travel and daily subsistence.
Productivity could improve through time saved and relief from travel-lethargy, enabling individuals to preserve more time for work and personal development.
We could see lower emissions from less intense transport use. And bosses could save more money. It looks worth a try.
This article was originally published by Ed Fernyhough on medium.