I don’t want to go back into the office, and I’m not alone.

I don’t want to go back into the office, and I’m not alone.
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The COVID-19 Pandemic led to employers reluctantly allowing their employees to work from home. Remote working enabled companies to stay open and allow business to run as usual. Even though there are still Covid-19 spikes throughout the States, many companies are ready to move past the pandemic and return to “normal” working conditions. Employees who have been working remotely for over two years are being demanded to return to the office full time. One of the most notable employers advocating a return to the office is Elon Musk. In a tweet, he implied that workers who want to work from home are lazy and unproductive. However, working remotely can decrease employee stress, increase productivity, enhance company loyalty, provide greater work/life balance, reduce sick leave, and increase retention.

Most people hate having to commute to work.
Long commutes add considerable stress to the employee. There is pressure to leave home at a specific hour to make it to work on time. Even when you time it right an unexpected accident on the road will make you late. We all know that stress of sitting in traffic not moving when the 8 am hour approaches. With record-high gas prices, not driving to work puts money back into employees’ pockets without costing the company a dime. In addition, without the commute time, virtual workers tend to show up to work on time or even early. Instead of sitting in your car you have two extra hours to do with as you wish. The extra time saved can also mean being able to hit that snooze button and get more sleep. Not rushing into traffic could enable a parent to be able drop off or pick up their child at school, which is something they may not have been able to do with the added commute time. Eliminating a commute allows workers to show up more refreshed to start the day instead of being exhausted and stressed out.

Not having to worry about what you are wearing is another benefit in working from home. It is such a time saver to hop out of bed and onto the computer. When you have to attend a meeting you make sure you are presentable from the waist up and you are good to go. No more squeezing into a suit that does not fit and having your focus be on those pants riding up. Instead you are sitting at your computer in your fuzzy socks. Lastly, spending less money on work clothes is another chunk of change that goes back into your pocket.

Working from home, people are able to have a better work life balance which increases motivation and company loyalty. Employers are finding that remote workers are willing to work more hours compared to those who work in a brick and mortar office. Workers are also able to be more flexible with doing tasks outside of work hours. Employees are often able to multi-task and attend to home and family obligations during the work day. For example, someone may be waiting for a meeting to start and use those few minutes to fold some laundry. Since they were able to get a home task done during work hours they are more willing to respond to an email when the work day is over.

Remote workers take less sick days off from work. Not being in an enclosed space with a group of people prevents the spread of illness. When you do get sick it is easier to make it to work when you can stay in your pajamas and lay on your couch. Even though you are not functioning at your best, you are able to complete small tasks which would not have been done if you took a day off of work.
Some employers falsely believe workers only work hard if they are in the office. Even though people are sitting at their desks, it does not mean that they are working. How often have you sat at your desk surfing the net during down time between tasks? Allowing employees to work on non-work-related items in their home during downtime, takes off the pressure to rush home to complete household tasks. The employer would end up with more productivity from their employees.

It can be nice to socialize with coworkers; however, this can also have a negative impact on productivity. We have all had that one coworker who lingers in your doorway chit chatting when you have a deadline to meet. Let’s forget the obligatory gathering in the break room to sing happy birthday in a monotone voice. You look down at your watch trying to figure out how long you have to stay to not to seem rude and get back to that project at your desk. By working from home, you also miss out on office drama and politics. “Did you hear that they are giving Susie the promotion, and she is going to be making more money than you despite only being here less than a year?” Instead of sitting at your desk fuming at these rumors, you are blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding at the office and able to get actual work done. You get information from the source and not misinformation that is floating around the water cooler. These social interactions and unexpected interruptions can have a direct negative impact on task completion.

While staff meetings can be important, moving to remote work has made people reevaluate the need for meetings. Often things that were meetings could be done one-on-one or in a group email. Instead of spending time debating policies and engaging in small talk, people are able to do their actual job.
Some people prefer going to an office setting, and it can be helpful for them to return there. However, employers have to realize that one size does not fit all. Instead of insisting that everyone return to work because it is what they have always done, they need to be open to allowing employees to continue to work from home in some form. If they want to retain talent they need to listen to employees and what works best for optimal work performance.

(About the author: Dr. Christine Henry is a licensed psychologist who has been enjoying seeing clients virtually for personal and career counseling. This article was inspired by the many stories from her clients who have benefited from working remotely.)

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