Marketing & HRRemote work vs in-office work: final comparison
Table of contents
- Fully remote work
- Insights from HR and EB in the IT industry
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Do you realize that we are about to enter the 4th year that remote work has become popular around the world? In 2020 the most unconvinced employers about remote work allowed their employees to work from home, and those employees who already loved remote work have since then been able to choose from thousands of 100% remote job offers.
Today, at the end of 2023, we notice that something is changing in the area of remote work. What? After 3 years of remote work, companies such as Zoom, Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Elon Musk himself are introducing policies in their companies that require every employee to return to the office from their home. And those who do not agree will have to end their collaboration with the company and their employers. Despite this, there are still employers on the market, such as Dropbox, Gitlab, Medium, and Mobile Reality, that still work 100% remotely from home and have no plan to change it.
In order to have the best perspective for this topic Mobile Reality CEO Matt Sadowski created a poll on his LinkedIn profile a few weeks ago in which he asked his followers to pick the form of work that was most attractive to them, and the results from this research were surprising. The results and working from home vs office statistics were the following: with 104 votes, the most frequently chosen option by many employees was “hybrid work”, next “remote work from home”, and “100% in-office work” was chosen by only 4% of voters! In the picture below, you can find working-from-home vs office statistics collected in the poll.
So what is the truth?
Everyone wants to be one of the remote workers and working from home, and yet companies return to 100% work in-person? After 3 years of consideration, can we finally say which option is best for your company? Maybe a hybrid work model?
To answer this question, let's analyze remote work and in-office work in more detail and find the winner of the battle: working at home vs in-office. Let’s find out the differences and pros and cons.
Fully remote work
Remote work or working from home definitely allows for flexibility for remote employees and employers because anything does not limit it. You don't have to work in one place, you don't all have to be always available at the same time. You don't have to take the entire day off if you have a doctor's appointment at noon, because you'll simply work longer. Furthermore, you can live far from the city not only at your home, and work for clients from all over the world. Working in the office during scheduled working hours does not allow for such flexibility. As an employer, you must set working hours to know when the office space should be open. With remote work from home, you and your remote working employees can work in the middle of the night, on the weekend, whenever you want, and it doesn't always have to be 9-5. The most important thing is that the work is carried out effectively and efficiently. And remember that productivity at home and all of these flexible working arrangements are incredible! This will not be possible when working in-office work environment, especially if your employees work on stationary equipment. Therefore, they must always work in the same place and at the same time. Flexible work can change everything.
The cost of commuting to work when working 100% remotely is non-existent. For both remote employees and employers. Unless you drive 5 km every day to get a Matcha latte at your favorite café. You can all work from home, from anywhere in the world (maybe a new home in sunny Los Angeles?), and you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on gas or parking. And if money is not the ultimate proof for you, also remember about time. Time is something that no one will ever give you back. If commuting is about 1 hour to work one way, you spend about 10 hours a week commuting on the home-work route. I hope you realize that this is more than one workday. One workday that could be spent with kids or on interesting projects. Of course, I realize that you can also work and read educational content while commuting. But who can read a book while driving a car or wants to prepare a financial report when a stranger next to you is looking at your screen?
3. Work life balance
I already mentioned it above about the time spent commuting to and from work, but there is no doubt that remote work is much more helpful in maintaining a balance between private and professional life. Of course, many may say that when remote working, our private, and professional lives mix, which results in us working longer hours or doing household chores during work. And yes, it's true, many people have a problem with this. But it’s also true that when working remotely, the employees take responsibility for organizing their lives and lifestyle and are often very good at it. Business owners and employees can travel around the world and work at the same time. Work and enjoy life at the same time. In the middle of the day, you can take a 5-minute power nap, take a shower, go for a walk with your dog, or play with your child for a while. And no one will blame you for it, as long as you work on it afterward and your job is done properly. In-office, apart from your lunch break, you can't do that, and not because someone forbids you. You simply don't have that opportunity. Once again, I know that when you work remotely, your professional and home life get mixed up, but when your remote work, you have more opportunities to enjoy life and have a better work life balance. Btw. while writing this article, I am in my grandmother's house in the countryside, looking out the window at the green garden and I feel much more energy (OMG, perfect remote job).
4. Productivity and creativity
Productivity from remote vs in-person work results, which are better? There are no two employees who will always be productive and creative at the same time. Sometimes an employee is creative at 5 a.m., sometimes an employee only gets extra energy after 5 p.m. There is no way for everyone to always work, have high productivity, and be super creative at the same working hours. Home increases productivity and provides more benefits for employees! For example, I’m most creative in the early morning hours and I remember well the times when I still worked in the office space during specific hours, where I spent the whole day meeting and making arrangements with people. And I had to do real work only after working hours or on weekends. And guess what? My productivity and creativity were zero back then, and I was terribly tired. I was constantly angry that I couldn't keep up with anything and that I had to sacrifice my private time/work life balance/home time to actually do my job well, even though I was working full-time from the office at the time. Yes, I know... Not all companies with 100% work in the office work in meeting “mode” and their employees can focus on office tasks during work. But no matter how best you take care of the organization of your office employees' work or office time, there will always be an opportunity for a spontaneous meeting that will disturb all work planned for that day and your employee's productivity.
This probably doesn't need much explanation. As a business owner, you don't spend money on office spaces, kitchen supplies, office furniture, cleaning, electricity, research how to fix the office toilet make sure that coffee is always in the coffee machine, etc. And the remote worker doesn't spend money on commuting, meals prepared especially for work, or outfits. Remember, however, that if your employees work remotely, it’s a good idea to plan some allowance to cover the costs of internet/electricity or another remote work arrangement. In the case of work from home environment, they have to cover it from their own budget. Regardless of whether employees receive any allowance, both parties benefit from this type of work-from-home.
When working remotely, the whole world opens up for your recruitment process. You don't have to look for a candidate only in the area where your company and his home are located. You can invite someone from the other side of the world to cooperate with you, who will have skills that you might not find in your city. As we can read at www.cnbc.com:
“Employers enjoy higher employee retention and can recruit from a broader pool of applicants, said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. They can save money on office space, by recruiting from lower-cost areas of the country or by raising wages at a slower pace due to workers’ perceived value of the work-at-home benefit, she said.”
Additionally, as I mentioned at the very beginning, remote work is currently the preferred form chosen by candidates. Remember, however, that in the case of employees in different time zones, there may be delays in communication, which may affect the remote employee productivity and efficiency of the tasks while working remotely.
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When working remotely, you have the opportunity to employ a very diverse team that will exchange knowledge and experience through mutual collaboration. This will ultimately result in increased employee productivity and the development of the entire team. A team working remotely from home also more often feels responsible for their tasks and has a lot of independence if management allows it. We all know stories from the beginning of the pandemic, where an employer reported the need to turn on a video conference for 8 hours, right? If you don't trust your remote team and constantly check, your remote employees won't feel responsible for work and simply won't show commitment. The more support and trust you show, the more your employees will give you. When it comes to team integration itself, you must remember that remote workers very regularly have to face the fact that their teams are poorly integrated, and people often do not fully feel a sense of belonging to the company or other remote workers. This is because they have few opportunities for integration or even daily interactions with each other. No wonder. If all team communication is just texting each other on Microsoft Teams or sometimes even having some virtual meeting, there is no way for the team to form any bond with each other. How can this be remedied? Practice daily, weekly, and regular company-wide virtual meetings where you will be able to talk about current and private matters with your coworkers. Organize remote integration meetings while sitting at home. That is everything that allows you to build relationships, and stay in touch with each other, and soon you will notice increased productivity.
8. Mental and physical health
This point causes many doubts. On the one hand, many professionals appreciate the fact that instead of being on the way to work, they can go to training or meditate for 5 minutes on their own bed at home after a difficult meeting with a client. On the other hand, there are also people who feel lonely when working remotely. Because they don't go anywhere, have less physical activity and contact with people, they suffer from depression more quickly, and this also affects the quality of their work. Working from an office has a definite advantage here. We are social creatures, and we need contact with other people, so if your employees work remotely from home, encourage them to participate in sports activities, and interesting workshops and organize something like that for all your employees. Mental and physical health is most important.
We can notice many differences with communication in a remote team and that is completely different from in a team working together in the office workplace. Unfortunately, it’s usually of lower quality. Due to the fact that it mainly focuses on written communication, many things can be misunderstood, there are delays in answering questions, and all this sometimes turns into conflicts. People are sometimes in different time zones, and sometimes communication between two staying-home employees is delayed by as much as 12 hours, this causes stress, frustration, and reduce in productivity for the parties involved. If you want to prevent this, sometimes it is enough to introduce a mandatory daily, where the entire project team will be able to discuss their case, what they are doing, and what they will do on an ongoing basis. You can also develop a communication strategy that will oblige everyone, e.g., to respond to messages within 2–4 hours. Think about what will be best for you and implement it so that it serves your company and team members.
There is no spontaneity in home office work. You have to accept it. No one will surprise you with a birthday cake. No one will surprise you in the kitchen. You won't spontaneously approach anyone to discuss a case. When writing to someone remotely, you cannot expect that person to respond immediately. If you want to talk to someone longer, you need to make an appointment with that person. When working remotely, there are few spontaneous opportunities for team integration. Everything must be organized, otherwise, your work and communication will not move forward.
With this point, it's hard to decide who is the winner. Work from home vs office? Why? On the one hand, it seems obvious that a team working in one place has a much easier time sharing all the necessary information. You can approach someone at any time and ask them all the necessary questions. Usually, however, in-office work there is no “know-how”, and it is based on the fact that if you need to learn something, you go to the person who knows. When working remotely, ensuring that all information and know-how are written down in various databases is often important. So that, for example, the onboarding process becomes easier and more convenient for people. And for another example, they don’t have to disturb someone during their vacation or when someone decides to leave, you don't have to stop the entire project for this reason.
There is theoretically no control while working remotely because everyone works from home. Unfortunately, control, just like in-office work, takes place and sometimes in some companies situations occur that will be remembered with disgust for many years. I mentioned above the case when one company asked an employee to be on call for 8 hours to check whether he was working. We also heard stories about hourly work statuses or apps that track mouse movement. Every company has a different story, but the truth is that when giving your employees the opportunity to work remotely, you have to trust them. Of course, you can track and monitor their progress because you would do the same in the office, but micromanagement has never been good for anyone. Believe me.
13. Technical issues
Unfortunately, when working remotely, everyone has to deal with all technical or equipment problems on their own. Unfortunately, no one can hope to take a flooded laptop to the help desk department and have it replaced within an hour. When working remotely, you have to send the equipment and receive the new one in the return package. If we need access to something, we either connect via a remote desktop or simply wait for someone to give us the required access. Fixing technical issues when working remotely always takes time.
Considering everything above, it might seem that employee engagement when working remotely is shallow and no one is interested in it. The truth is, however, that because companies know that they may have issues with remote work, they put more energy into checking employee engagement. And then preparing appropriate actions aimed at improving this engagement, so remote work has an advantage as compared to the office. When working remotely, employees are often officially praised and many activities are introduced to motivate them and appreciate them for their work. Companies very regularly implement such solutions that are also intended to automate activities such as praising employees. For example, they can introduce an add-on to Slack or Microsoft Teams like NFT Reality, thanks to which they can quickly and easily send kudos to their employees and constantly build their commitment.
Commuting to and from work in the office involves time and costs for all parties. Unfortunately, this point is automatically lost compared to remote work. Regardless of whether you use this time for additional tasks, listening to podcasts, or learning a foreign language, you still have less time for your private life than people working remotely. If you can't change this and want to help your employees, consider arranging shared transport for employees living in the same area. This will help them save money. And if you don't have the opportunity to organize such commuting, help your employees find people from the same area. Sometimes we may not know that our team member lives just 3 streets away from us, and we could commute to work together.
When working remotely, your team certainly has more opportunities for daily interpersonal interactions at the workplace, which makes them more integrated with each other and know each other better. However, this does not always have a real impact on the effectiveness of this team. It often happens that people in a typical office environment, instead of working, spend most of the day chatting and doing things unrelated to work. They can be distracted from work more quickly and have more simple distractions. There are often many more reasons for conflicts. Conflicts no longer arise only because someone misunderstood something, but also because someone ate something (yes, I witnessed such a situation at work). Don't get me wrong, it's great for the team to see each other, but does it have to be every day for the quality and effectiveness of work?
In office work, communication is undoubtedly much faster, people are more responsive because it is easier to talk to someone sitting at the desk next to you. It's easier to walk up to someone, ask them a question, and then go back to your place. However, this has one significant drawback. What? Such that communication in-person/in-office work is more chaotic. People don't have to wonder whether it makes sense to bother someone. They just do it. Sometimes asking questions without context upset the other party because this topic has already been discussed many times. When working remotely, communication is more difficult and slower, but often more organized. When writing to someone, we write to present the full context of the message and check whether we have written about such things before.
Unpopular opinion: discipline in the offices exists, but it is forced. Yes, you read that right. In the office, everyone feels pressured by their superiors to work or… pretend to work. We all know how a team works when a manager goes on vacation. Yep, the quality of such work is very low. And you know what this means? Of course, this doesn’t depend strictly on whether someone works in the office or remotely. It only depends on what type of employee he is and how much his manager trusts him. It’s obvious that managers do not send employees who are not trusted to work remotely, preferring to keep an eye on them in the office. This means that employees themselves do not feel the need to be effective, because they know that someone will be watching them soon anyway. A never-ending story, and you can't really do anything about it. Like it or not, you have to keep an eye on some employees, and sometimes you have to keep an eye on them while you're in the same room. However, consider whether you want to build the future of your company with such a team. And remember, remote work productivity is much better than at the office.
There is little flexibility in office work for both employers and employees. You are all limited by the work hours of your office or factory. To do your job, you have to be in a specific place. You may even give some people occasional remote work, but I assume that these people still have to work during everyone else's working hours. Is it bad not to have this flexibility? It's up to you to think about what you're missing out on because of this. Maybe it's because young employees are not interested in such work, which is why your team lacks a fresh perspective.
When recruiting for an in-office job, you must be aware that you will face many limitations. The job ad will only reach people who are from your area or are looking for a job in your region. Candidates who have great skills and who are on the other side of the country will not even see your job offer and will not apply for it. Also remember that someone, even from your city, who would be perfect for this position, but who has been working remotely since 2020 and who prefers this type of work, will not want to change it. So once again you lose the opportunity to hire a good person. By offering work 100% in-office, you will lose the opportunity to increase your pool of candidates, thus selecting truly the best ones.
The equipment is at your place. If something breaks down, they can go to the help desk department and get help. You have control over what happens to it, it is in one place and your employees use it under your control. This is a great convenience for the company. But is it for employees?
8. Work life balance
I wrote about work life balance above when working remotely, and I would like to write exactly the same here. This means that both remote work and work in the office help and harm work life balance. I think it’s an individual matter of the employee and how he organizes his work. But remember that work life balance is often worse in office work with typical working hours, and it is most often related not only to the working time itself but also to commuting to work.
When working in an office, you can definitely control your employees because you can see what they do, how long they work, and what they work on. You won't be able to do this while working remotely. But is it good? Nobody likes to be controlled. Even the most problematic employee will become even more demotivated if it is constantly monitored and controlled. The best ones will quickly run away from your company because they will not feel your trust and will additionally feel that you are undermining their work. You run a company, and you are a manager, so it’s obvious that you need to have everything under control, but you can give your employees a little more freedom, e.g., allow them to work remotely or hybrid. If they can't appreciate it, you'll rethink everything, but you won't know until you try.
Costs… there are costs in working in an office workspace, and yes, there are a lot of them. Office rent, bills, coffee in the kitchen, chairs, desks, materials, “Fruit Thursdays”, etc. You can implement savings plans, and you can try to reduce costs, but you know, when comparing working at home vs office, working in the office will always generate higher costs than working remotely or hybrid.
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There are more opportunities for spontaneity in the office environment. Someone has a birthday and will bring a cake, you can spend 10 minutes together in the company kitchen and talk about something funny. Has anyone come up with an idea for a “quick drink” before the end of work? People may decide at the last minute to go out and spend time together. This is not possible when working remotely when employees are in different parts of the country or the world. Sometimes it's not even possible to meet every remote employee in one place once a year.
As I wrote above regarding remote work, we can assume that it is easier to transfer knowledge in-person/in-office, because everyone is there and all you have to do is ask, and you already know everything. However, very often this knowledge is not written down anywhere, it’s not organized. This means that when there is no person with this knowledge, for example, because an employee goes on vacation, we have a problem. In remote work, more effort is usually put into organizing the knowledge base, thanks to which processes are automated and work never has to be stopped just because someone is sick.
It’s assumed that when working in an office, everyone is very engaged, but this is not true. In the office, work engagement is usually low because there are a million reasons that lower it. The manager is in a bad mood, so he takes it out on the employees for no reason… Someone started rumors… Someone is committed to work, but sees that someone who works poorly is treated better… All this affects the level of employee engagement. And most importantly, in the office, because you constantly spend time together, there are rarely opportunities to officially praise someone, or thank them for their hard work, and this ultimately also reduces employee engagement.
Now you're probably waiting for the final decision on which option is better. Remote vs in-person work? Did you read all the pros and cons? Oh, well... It's still difficult to make a clear decision because it all depends on you, who your employees are, what your industry is, and what you do. However, as the poll created by the CEO of Mobile Reality shows, if a group of people has the opportunity to choose, they will be more likely to choose hybrid model options. That means an option in which they have the opportunity to work with a remote workforce, but can also meet with the remote team from time to time. Not necessarily just to work in boxes separated by walls, but to integrate with each other. Sorry, but it's impossible to make a clear choice, but remember that working 100% in-office is the least wanted option in the world. If your employee has the opportunity to change a job to hybrid or remote work, your worker will probably do it in a second, even if everything else is fine with your work conditions. How can you deal with this if you have to work 100% from the office work environment? Make small changes, maybe some remote work, e.g., between Christmas and New Year's Eve? Flexibility, or maybe the freedom to choose which shift the employee will work in a given month? People/employees are your best capital, so take care of them and be open to the fact that the market and its needs are changing. Use the best practices. Then you will attract the best, and with the best, you will develop the fastest.
Do you see any other advantages and disadvantages? Let us know!
Insights from HR and EB in the IT industry
Are you curious about the unique challenges and innovative solutions in HR and employer branding within the IT industry? At Mobile Reality, we're excited to share with you a wealth of insights from our experiences. Discover the problems we face, the strategies that drive us, and the creative ideas we implement in our HR and employer branding initiatives. Dive into our collection of related articles featured on our blog – a treasure trove of knowledge awaits you:
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