Most people associate the office space with routines, regular meetings, short ‘coffee-and-tea get-togethers’, and general conformity. However, in light of the homeworking practices that have come as a result of the pandemic, the office is becoming a source of economic uncertainty and heated dispute. Across the globe managers are re-considering their dependence on office spaces and are coming to radically different conclusions. On one side, you have firms that are looking to adopt homeworking as a permanent practice.
On August 28th Pinterest, a social media firm, paid $90m to end a new lease obligation on office blocks close to their headquarters in San Francisco. Their motivation – to create a more “distributed workforce”. At the same time, Facebook, a well-known media conglomerate has done the exact opposite, signing a new lease for an office building in Manhattan, New York. Some business giants have demonstrated an astonishing disparity to return to pre-pandemic conditions. Earlier this month, Bloomberg, a news goliath, was reportedly offering a stipend of up to £55 a day to bring its workers in London back to their office desks.
One major incentive for working from home is the avoidance of public transport and the more general practice (and quite frankly, a mood in itself) of daily commuting. In New York, a quarter of commuters live more than 15 miles (24 km) from their offices. A study from 2004 by Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University shows that regular commuting is amongst the least enjoyable activities for workers. A study published in the American Economic Review shows that employees prefer working from home, citing increased levels of wellbeing as a motivator. Keeping them from spending two hour each day on the train would only further this trend.
From an HR perspective, homeworking offers great opportunities to maintain employees’ health and wellbeing. A study in 2015 by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University demonstrates that homeworking led to a major decrease in employees’ sickness absence. Working from home is shown to lead to increased productivity and motivation, and higher levels of happiness and job satisfaction.
This offers great opportunities for both managers and employees to re-evaluate their work cycles. The pandemic, for all its ill effects, has offered an opportunity to remake the work of work.
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