As someone who’s worked remotely for a good chunk of my professional life, I’ve always been dubious about the need for companies to require downtown office spaces.
Yes, the social aspect of being around your colleagues can be hugely beneficial, both in a professional mindset and a mental health one – but apart from that, do we really need to be in a confined space together to do our best work?
My belief is no.
As I mentioned at the start, a good chunk of my working life (at least since moving to Canada 14 years ago) has been remote. First, as a solo consultant, and then as part of a business (including a tech start-up, a marketing agency, and a Government entity).
Each time I worked from home as an employee of someone else, I still got my work done; still met deadlines; still communicated effectively and on time.
My wife is the same. She works for a large Canadian B2B organization, and – prior to Covid – worked half the week at home, the other half in the corporate office.
She still got her work done; attended the meetings she needed to; and was – and remains – a hugely effective part of the team.
So, even before Covid had such an impact on the world around us, my wife and I were just two examples of why remote working was better. It’s not just us, though.
The Global Move to Remote Work
A report published on Inc showed remote workers are much more effective than those that commute and work downtown.
Over at respected British media organization, the BBC, there’s the results of an experiment that showed an 13% increase in productivity of remote workers.
So, remote work isn’t “just an excuse to slack off”, as some bosses might argue. Nor is it an anomaly in today’s business world.
Indeed, it’s becoming more normal, and only promises to continue to grow as more people look to leave the big city and move to less dense populations, post-Covid.
Add in the relatively simple steps it takes to get set up in a “home office”, regardless of how complex it needs to be, and I seriously wonder why anyone would want to commute again (apart from the aforementioned social and mental health aspect, which I completely get).
Consider, for a moment, the benefits of a remote environment.
Actual life/work balance
Yes, I know – it’s supposed to say work/life balance, but I’m not a fan of anything that puts work before quality of life.
We all need to work to maintain some standard of living, depending on what that looks like for all of us. But in all honesty, work should always be just a means to an end – because if the quality of our life suffers because of the work we’re doing, there’s something inherently wrong with that.
My friend Andy Donovan posted a statement on Facebook recently, and it’s one that really resonated with me.
People say you only live once. Actually, you only die once, so live each day and make the most of it.
And it’s true. We get so wrapped up in what we think we should be doing to make life worth living, we forget to actually live it.
Instead, we spend hours commuting to a job we might not even like; we spend hours on the phone, checking emails, alerts, notifications, etc. And we spend hours getting worked up about how bad the work day went, and then our family suffers because of it.
With remote work, yes, the frustrations may still be there – but now you have the opportunity to pause. Breathe. Calm yourself. Rationalize. Ask if this is such a big deal after all.
You’re also in the comfort of your own home, where you know the calm spaces and their location.
It may be a pet. Your garden. A tree you sit beside near your home. A photograph on the wall. whatever it is, it’s the things that brings you peace. Having that beside you can help with any issue that work might throw at you – you don’t have that luxury downtown.
And because of this access to a calmer resolution, you can be more effective at solving the problem that caused it which in turn helps you relax properly when the workday is done.
The extra, and simple, benefit of that is you’re a much more “attractive”, for lack of a better word, family member and person to be around. Home life becomes actual home life, as opposed to a place you spend some time before the routine of commute, office, stress, and return commute starts again.
Your work, your routine
I read an article a few years back that talked about working meaningfully with your hours. The premise is simple – instead of working 8 hours a day, five days a week, we work hard for 3-4 hours each day, and that’s it.
This has many benefits:
- Your concentration levels aren’t stretched thin, allowing for more concentrated work
- You’re focused solely on the task, or tasks, at hand, with zero distractions (set your phone aside, and only allow important notifications)
- You’re less likely to fall into the habit of extending your workday to check emails, mess around on social media, etc.
- Your habits become more healthy and consistent, leading to a much more effective and satisfying life
- Limiting your time ensures you’re more careful of what you do, since you’re so focused and thinking about one problem as opposed to many
A good boss doesn’t care when you do the work; just that it gets done. Working remotely allows you to set the timetable for you at your most effective.
Me, I’m an afternoon person, so I tend to get more done later in the day, as opposed to an early start. For others, they might be night people, or super early risers.
Either way, allowing yourself to work hard and work diligently for just a few hours a day can make all the difference to how effective you are at your work. But don’t just take it from me.
Businesses, and Society, Need to Catch Up
Now, I get it. This all sounds too easy, and too simple. And it is – I make no bones about that.
There are many moving parts that need to change in order for something like this to be the norm as opposed to what some people aspire to, and what others may be afraid of, for various reasons.
- Businesses need to understand times have changed
- What worked for society 10, 20, 30 years ago isn’t relevant to today’s version
- Governments – federal, provincial/state, and municipal have to invest in the infrastructure that enables this approach to work
- Daycare and after school needs to be affordable, accessible, and applicable for anyone who needs it
- Technology vendors and providers need to make solid, reliable internet available to all, and at affordable prices
These, and other investments and changes, need to be made before we’re truly able to live and work more effectively.
But given the numerous benefits to both employees and employers, which can help result in more loyal workers and more profitable businesses, it’s a change that makes a lot more sense to implement than ignore.