While businesses could save considerably by downsizing or eliminating office space, there are several key factors this cost-saving strategy overlooks that could end up being detrimental to businesses long-term.
Outlined below are three important considerations for why in-office work shouldn’t be eliminated post-pandemic:
Training & Development
Professionals early on in their careers, as well as employees new to the business, are at a disadvantage working from home because they may be unable to benefit from learning from experienced professionals by sitting alongside them. Businesses have adjusted and found ways to integrate virtual learning and shadowing into training programs, however, there is still a great deal of on-the-job learning new employees miss out on when remote.
Not having enough mentorship or support for remote new hires is one of the top five reported onboarding mistakes companies are making. The ability to sit alongside teammates with more experience to hear how different situations are handled or have a manager pull up a chair and coach employees through a call is invaluable on-the-spot training that is hard to replicate in a virtual world. Also, the ability to offer feedback and course-correct someone who is on the wrong path during a process or project on the spot is important to getting new hires ramped up more quickly.
Employee Mental Health
Many have reported working from home has made it difficult to find the distinction between work and home, from children and pets popping in and out of work calls, to working at makeshift desks next to beds or taking over kitchen tables. Without a commute and a physical change of location, work hours became intertwined with home responsibilities.
While some may have office space in their home, many are working in small spaces that are ill equipped for long workdays, which could contribute to negative emotions. Working alongside family or roommates who are also working from home may create conflict and a negative impact on relationships as well.
Receiving feedback virtually can also be incredibly challenging. Through a screen it may be more difficult to observe how an employee is receiving the feedback and if messaging is translating well. Especially if delivering harsh feedback, emotions may be magnified as criticism meant to help the employee improve may feel out of context and get convoluted when the call is ended.
Employee mental health has seen a dramatic drop over the last year, with the percentage of employees reporting being mentally and emotionally healthy dropping from 62% to 28% in the last year. Furthermore, job satisfaction dropped from 57% to 32% and motivation fell from 56% to 36%.
Employee mental health is closely tied to productivity and engagement, meaning the decline in mental health may also significantly impact a business’ bottom line. While working remotely, signs of mental health declining are much more challenging to spot and may go unnoticed for far too long.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
A renewed attention has been focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the last year, with many prominent employers hiring new Chief Diversity Officers or reworking DEI goals and standards. While working remotely can make the job itself more accessible to some, it can also make connection and inclusion more challenging.
The office serves as an intersection of various cultures, levels of experience, unique ideas and personalities. Employees see and interact with people of various backgrounds and connect casually with one another, increasing exposure to different cultures with people and learning from one another. Something as simple as talking to someone about family traditions is a natural means of cultivating a diverse and inclusive atmosphere. The connection found through casual, in-office conversations are essential to enhance diverse and inclusive workforces.
Keeping employees engaged and invested in the organization is essential to retaining top talent and supporting company growth, and the power of in-person collaboration and community is a valuable contributor to engagement. While keeping safety top of mind, companies may want to consider how the return of in-office work may benefit their people post-pandemic.
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