Pandemic times are teaching us there’s no right workplace model

The COVID-19 work from home necessity has generated a lot of dialogue about workplace productivity and pros/cons of working on-site versus remotely. Every day, we see and hear of different companies grappling with when and how to get people back into the office, or staying firm on keeping people away. It’s definitely a mixed bag as every company considers the risks and benefits of their decisions.

This period will forever change the way companies operate. But I am a bit flummoxed by the “right way” dialogue to conduct business. Like most things in life, work styles and productivity are highly individualized. There’s no one approach that will enable every person in a company, big or small, to have an ideal setup. I am by no means a workplace organization or psychology expert, but I wonder why we’re wasting energy on debating “live” and “remote” working, and instead not focusing on how to set up hybrid models where everyone is given a chance to thrive. 

Personally, I love being around people and enjoyed being part of and running teams over my 25+ year career. However, I have never been a fan of commuting and for the most part – especially as my kids hit middle school – I didn’t see the point of losing hours a day to going back and forth to an office. Over the nearly eight years I’ve been working from home and running my own business, I have found that my work is way more productive and I can fulfill my need for live social interaction elsewhere. I get that there’s benefit to spontaneous “water cooler” meetups, but I feel more creative and energetic when I have more time to eat well, exercise, and not stress about taking time off for school events or other non-work priorities. 

Others need to separate their home and work environments, and need the face-to-face interaction with colleagues. I’ve noticed that when that type of person happens to be a senior manager, they also require their team members to be in the office. That may benefit the manager, but does not create a healthy environment for their team members. It also garners a culture of mistrust, since the manager doesn’t think team members are doing their job as well if they can’t physically see them throughout the workday.

I’m hoping that one positive outcome of this terrible pandemic situation is the realization by business leaders that they can run a successful company by allowing talented employees to work how it best suits THEM; not an unrealistic expectation set up by top-down personal preferences. There will always be plenty of people who will choose to work “in person,” and for those who don’t, they will work just as hard. Productivity and loyalty comes from fostering an environment of inclusion, flexibility and trust – not the physical surroundings.

#COVID19 #remoteworking #workfromhome #workplace