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Home office or just office?

  • Published at 10:16 pm August 17th, 2020
Home office or just office?

Sometimes, it is the nature of the job they do and/or the attitude of the people that makes work from home more productive and effective

A few weeks ago, Google formally announced that its employees will be remotely working from home at least till July 2021, and, in the process, became the first major company to formally do so. However, even without any formal declaration, many businesses are continuing with their own “work from home”systems in place. This is a by-product of the time we currently live in — a time when maintaining distance and limiting outside movement is a necessity. But there is undeniable confusion and contemplation all throughout the business world on whether to return to the status quo by returning to physical offices or accept remotely working as a part of this “new normal.”

The situation thrust upon the people and the businesses, especially those in Bangladesh, is entirely “novel.”Most of the people in the corporate scene of Bangladesh have never experienced remote working before and were forced to quickly adapt or get left behind. For some businesses, the initial part of the lockdown period was the hardest when almost no work was being done due to their over-reliance on a physical presence and inability to carry over parts or the entirety of their work process to an online medium. But as some perished, others flourished during the same period — especially businesses that were able to quickly adapt to changing needs and move online.

Since then, as the lockdown restrictions have largely been lifted, people and businesses have been wondering whether to return to the office — many already have. For most of the businesses, the deciding factor has been, or should be, the productivity level of its employees and the ability to maintain full working capacity. So, in that case, if a business is able to operate at full capacity despite having its employees physically attend office — with 0% system loss or productivity loss, there is no need for deliberation. Home office can continue to be the answer for them. But, unfortunately, the number of businesses that can operate in such a way is very limited.

Even today, in the digital age, a significant portion of our office work needs to be done at a desk or, at least, somewhere on the physical plane. From procedural work to paperwork, there really is no substitute for physically attending office for many companies. However, it is often even more than that. The office atmosphere is completely different from everything else. The “professional” or the“serious” aura of an office sets the mood for employees that is not really present when working from home. There is more focus and efficiency at the workplace even if most people do not realize it or try to deny it.

Recently, Deloitte Switzerland conducted a survey on 1,500 Swizz citizens, 50% of whom were working from home. They were asked to compare their productivity while working from home to working in an office. Surprisingly, about 41% said they were more productive while working from home and 31% responded that they were equally productive.However, it is important to understand two things. First, the survey results were due to self-assessments and were not rated by their employers or a professional third party.Second, the“work ethic” or the “work culture” of the Swiss is/will be vastly different from many of the work cultures of other regions.

So, while there is no doubt there are more than a few perks of working from home — such as less commute stress, improved work-life balance and more freedom to work —more often than not, productivity takes a hit, especially in our neck of the woods where traditionalism persists and the “good ol’ ways of the past” are perceived as the best way to do things. But in all fairness, that is how most of the workforce is moulded in the sub-continent. Despite the more relaxed environment at home, there are distractions and, sometimes, too much from maintaining an optimum productivity level.

On the other hand, the people here feel “more at home” at offices for work. There are no distractions. Communication and meetings with colleagues and clients become more seamless. Employees can easily bounce off ideas with others, accomplish tasks quicker and can be held more accountable. That is because, truth be told, most individuals are more motivated by fear than freedom at work, especially the older generation and those too rigid to adapt to changing times. They require a strict atmosphere where they will be “required” to focus on tasks above everything else.

Yet, it is true that there are others who actually excel while working from home. Sometimes, it is the nature of the job they do and/or the attitude of the people that makes work from home more productive and effective. Such disparity can even be observed within the same organization where one department is fully reliant on physical attendance to become productive while another can remotely perform its duty to the max.

But the current scenario, to some extent, transcends the need for efficiency and effectiveness. The matter of safety should, ideally, take precedence. However, if proper safety of the employees can be ensured while also physically attending office, then many of the employers will, and maybe even should, decide to go for it. Because, at the end of the day, a business is a business, and they need to make sure that all of their assets are performing as they should — regardless if it means working remotely or working at the office.

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