While the world isn’t heading toward a full return to normal life quite yet, the increase in vaccination rates means that there are parts of pre-pandemic life returning to the horizon. One of the most significant changes coming up for many workers is a return to office life. If you are faced with choosing between working remotely, hybrid working, or working from the office full-time, knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each can make your decision easier.
Employers worldwide have already begun making decisions about the way they envision office life — or lack thereof — in the future. As employers begin to make decisions about the future of the office, some employees will be tasked with choosing what form of return to work they prefer.
While Google has decided to move away from fully working remotely, other large companies, like Facebook and Salesforce, have chosen to delay returning to the office until later this year. Meanwhile, some companies, like Twitter, are allowing employees to work remotely indefinitely, which might appeal to some workers and pose challenges for others. Whether you choose to remain at home, return to the office full-time, or create a hybrid office work life, there are a number of factors to consider.
What influences our return-to-work choices?
The type of return-to-work situation you choose will most likely be based on a few key elements, from personal circumstances to the return-to-work culture your employer creates.
First, an employee’s unique personal situation will be a large driver in choosing between working from the office, working remotely, or some combination of the two. Those with roommates might find working at home more difficult, while those with children might find a hybrid office more flexible.
Second, company culture plays a major role in which return-to-work option employees choose. For instance, consider a company that allows workers to choose between hybrid, remote, or office working — yet only includes those in the office by holding regular in-person meetings that remote employees can’t attend. This might push employees to choose office or hybrid office working options in order to stay on the same page as the rest of the staff.
As co-founder of GitLab, Sid Sijbrandij, opined in an article on Wired, “Hybrid creates two fundamentally different employee experiences to manage,” which can pose considerable challenges for both employees and employers in meshing two different workplace cultures.
Finally, the choices your colleagues make about how they wish to return to the office may influence your decision, especially where company management doesn’t actively seek to adequately mesh teams who have chosen different settings for their daily work. If your colleagues have all chosen to work from the office exclusively, choosing to work remotely could be challenging or isolating.
Types of return-to-work — and who they work best for
Working remotely: Working remotely means that you would not be traveling to an office regularly and instead would be responsible for working from a home office, your dining table, a coffee shop, or even a co-working space. You would not be responsible for being in the office, nor would there be a designated space for you.
- Benefits: Working remotely offers many benefits, including reducing the time and cost of daily commutes. Working remotely also offers higher flexibility of working hours for employees, which can suit those who have personal circumstances that benefit from a less rigid office schedule.
- Challenges: However, working remotely isn’t without its challenges. Those who have been working remotely throughout the pandemic have reported downsides like difficulty disconnecting after work, loneliness, and problems collaborating with colleagues. Remote work also relies on having home office equipment, including an internet connection that is both stable and secure, which isn’t always easy to find outside an office setting.
- Works best for: Working remotely works best for those with a long commute or personal responsibilities that benefit from flexible working hours.
Office full-time: Working from a traditional office full-time is what most of us were used to before the pandemic. Working in an office full-time would entail a daily commute and adhering to regular working hours set by your employer.
- Benefits: Working in an office full-time certainly has its benefits, including ease of organic collaboration with colleagues that can be more difficult to replicate when teammates are working remotely. Communication can be easier because discussions can take place when you meet someone in the break room or find them at their desk.
- Challenges: However, commuting to an office can cost workers time and money, depending on how far away they live and whether their commute is compensated by their employer. Additionally, easy access to synchronous communication can mean that workers aren’t able to focus as easily on their work and lose time chatting with coworkers. These natural conversations can also lead to decisions being made without an entire team’s involvement, potentially leading to project delays and missteps due to miscommunication.
- Works best for: Working in an office full-time works best for those who have a short daily commute, who don’t require added workday flexibility, and who enjoy the workplace culture.
Hybrid working: Hybrid working entails a combination of working from an office and working remotely. When employees return to work using a hybrid model, they spend at least one day each week working remotely. Hybrid working was used pre-pandemic, but as workers look to strike a balance between office full-time or full-time working remotely, creating a hybrid office has become an increasingly popular option for employees.
- Benefits: Hybrid working allows workers to access the benefits of both working in an office and working remotely. A working schedule would be agreed upon between the employer and employee, with input from both parties. Hybrid working can lower the isolation fully remote workers might feel, as they’ll be interacting with coworkers weekly.
- Challenges: Hybrid working does require that workers have a modified hybrid office for the days they are working remotely, which can be tricky for those with roommates, smaller home spaces, or the demands of children or dependents. Hybrid working also poses challenges for professions that aren’t possible to do remotely, especially those in the service industry or those that require specific machinery.
- Works best for: Hybrid working works best for employees who want the flexibility of remote working as well as the collaboration, communication, and culture of an office setting.
How to choose what works best for you
- Consider what your employer offers: Not every employer will offer unlimited options for returning to work, so your choices might be dictated by what’s offered to you. If your employer doesn’t currently offer remote or hybrid office options, offering them data on increased productivity of remote workers, or reduced burnout for hybrid office workers could be influential in them allowing you to choose a schedule that works better for you.
- Determine your optimal workspace: After a year of working remotely, you should have some idea of your needs when it comes to your workspace. Are you more productive at home than you were in the office? Or vice versa? Additionally, if you share your home with roommates or family members who also work from home, there might not be adequate space for each person to join video calls at the same time.
- Consider your individual circumstances: Whether you have small children at home who need to be dropped to preschool or elderly parents who need extra help, individual circumstances play a huge role in making your return-to-work choice. In some cases, working from home with additional responsibilities to others can bring another level of stress to the workday. However, for others, working from home can allow a better work-life balance that can positively affect employee retention and bring down burnout rates.
- Determine whether your work set-up during the pandemic situation worked: Many workers were forced to move to completely remote working during the pandemic, which clarified how fully remote work would suit their situation. A survey from CHG Healthcare found that over half of workers surveyed were interested in returning to a hybrid office situation following the pandemic, while only 9% would like to return to the office full-time. Evaluating what worked and what didn’t during your experience with working from home can help you choose to extend remote working, return fully to the office, or create a combination of the two with hybrid office working.
- Test potential remote work options: Many workers haven’t physically stepped foot in their office in over a year, with many new hires having been onboarded remotely. Trying out a hybrid office working schedule before fully committing can be a good way to determine what will ultimately be the best fit. Research working from home tips that may benefit your home office set-up, and solidify your decision on where is best to work for you.
Choose Wrike for all types of return-to-work
While choosing exactly how you’re going to return-to-work can be tricky, the good news is that Wrike supports every working configuration you could imagine — and can even mitigate some of your key communication and collaboration challenges no matter how you and your team choose to work. Wrike work management software allows teams to work together from anywhere, with real-time commenting, instant @mentions, and integrated applications that make connecting with your team simple and effective. Learn more by starting a two-week free trial today.