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17 May 2024

Remote working v Office working: The pros and cons of the inexorable return to the office.

Remote working v Office working:  The pros and cons of the inexorable return to the office.

Over forty percent of UK businesses have moved back to full-time office working, with the drive back to the workplace being determined by both SMEs and big brands like JD Sports and Boots. Many employees have expressed concern over the increased pressure on outgoings and time during the cost-of-living crisis, and businesses, it’s claimed, were saving money on office space, IT and utilities from staff working from home. So why is the desire to go back to the office happening and what are the pros and cons for staff and businesses?

Remote working v Office working

There’s little doubt that some employees can work more efficiently at home, especially where a lengthy commute is involved. Employees usually see the benefits of a better work-life balance, and in many cases employers experience increased productivity. But there are also unseen costs to working from home, for both parties.

Benefits of Working from Home:

  • Less Commuting, Less Stress, Fewer Expenses

Working from home eliminates the need for daily commuting, reducing stress associated with traffic and long journeys. Staff can save money on transportation costs, work attire, and takeout meals. The average UK worker spends commuting to the office costs £9.69 per day in the UK, which could add up to a aw whopping £2,441 a year or more. Parents may also benefit by reducing childcare expenses since they can be more present at home.

  • Improved Work-Life Balance

Remote work allows you to create a flexible schedule that aligns with your personal life.

You can take care of household tasks, deliveries, medical and dental appointments without majorly compromising productivity. Spending more time with family becomes feasible due to shorter work hours and a consistent location.

  • Fewer Distractions

If you prefer a serene work environment, home may offer fewer distractions compared to a bustling office. Noise levels, interruptions, and office politics are minimized offering the ideal environment for those with the discipline and who need space to focus.

Cons of Working from Home:

  • Increased Isolation:

Remote work can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Lack of face-to-face interactions with colleagues may affect mental well-being and working in the same space where you spend the rest of your week can knock social confidence and lead to agoraphobic-type feelings which were particularly prevalent during lock-down.

  • Home Office Costs:

While saving on commuting expenses, setting up a functional home office can incur cost, with furniture, IT equipment, and reliable broadband invariably being essential. Recent research discovered that WiFi usage solely attributed to work costs UK workers over £90 a year. Working from home can add £3.88 a week to water bills.

  • Risk of Overworking:

Without clear boundaries, remote workers may find it challenging to disconnect from work. This is where a commute to and from work is actually a benefit as it allows employees a period of time to ‘switch off’ from work and creates a border line between work time and leisure time. Lack of these border lines can lead to overworking which in turn can cause burnout and negatively impact health. With no manager in close proximity to communicate with, workload issues could easily build.

  • Risk of Reduced Productivity & Engagement

Whilst personality types will react by overworking, others may go the other way without the discipline of close and regular monitoring. Lack of supervision can lead to a drop in work-rate and in extreme cases a disconnect with the employer. Disengagement often leads to lower productivity, reduced empathy with company goals and ultimately, higher staff turnover.

  • Communication and Collaboration Challenges

Remote work relies heavily on digital communication tools. Building relationships and collaborating effectively can be more difficult without in-person interactions and certain sectors just work better with physical proximity.

  • Less Face Time Means Less Prospects?

There is evidence becoming apparent that missing out on face-to-face interactions may hinder career growth, with office-based employees being more likely to be promoted or receive higher wage rises. This is understandable as building rapport with colleagues and superiors becomes more challenging.

KPI Commercial Director Keeley Callan said, “Working from home offers flexibility, reduced stress, and cost savings for employees, but it also requires discipline and effective communication. Whilst businesses could save money on utilities, IT equipment and office space, these costs can often be outweighed by the negatives of staff disconnection if people are not regularly engaged.”

“For staff who work 100% from home, businesses need robust strategies to combat isolation and maintain company culture,” said Keeley. “Even those who work on a hybrid basis need a more regular management or supervisory interaction than staff working in the office. The costs of this and the potential decay of organisational cohesion from remote working probably have a lot to do with the drive back to office-working in 2024.

“But it is imperative that employers offer flexibility to staff in order for them to feel that moving back to office work is more of a benefit than a drawback.”

If you need assistance with recruitment, retention and whether to offer hybrid working or not, call our Commercial teams for expert advice on the latest trends. Find your nearest branch here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.