With the worst of COVID-19 behind us, a new question arises: Is the virtual office still the best course of action for employers? Many would say it is. After all, there are a lot of benefits. To name a few:
- Increased Cost-Efficiency: Remote work allows employers to save on various operational costs associated with maintaining a physical office space.
- Greater Employee Satisfaction: It can also lead to a better work-life balance, reduced commuting stress, and the ability to tailor unique work environments.
- Increased Productivity: Not to mention, studies have shown that remote work can lead to increased employee productivity due to the inherent lack of distractions and interruptions.
However, there’s also evidence to suggest that going back to the office might be best for the bottom line. Requiring employees to move away from the virtual office can have several advantages for employers. Things like:
- Enhanced Collaboration and Communication: Working in a physical office facilitates face-to-face interactions, which can lead to improved collaboration and communication.
- Building a Sense of Community: It can also help employees forge interpersonal connections and friendships, which can contribute to higher job satisfaction.
- Increased Productivity: For certain tasks or roles, a physical office can provide employees with better access to resources, tools, and information.
See how both sides of the argument champion increased productivity? So, which one is right?
Being Productive in a Virtual Office
Working fully from home is great. Or, at least, it can be.
Once you iron out the kinks, the work-life balance your employees can achieve is incredible. Here at Blau & Berg, if the situation permits it, we have no problem with an employee working fully from home. In fact, we encourage it. From reduced distractions to a flexible work environment, they have the resources to make a difference.
Let’s get into them.
The Benefits of Reducing Distractions
Working from an office that’s in your home or another quiet, remote location can often eliminate the distractions commonly found in traditional office settings. You can focus better on your tasks without interruptions from coworkers, impromptu meetings, or office noise in general. This directly results in your improved concentration and efficiency.
These are just five examples of distractions that aren’t commonly thought of:
- Co-worker interruptions: Frequent interruptions by co-workers stopping by your desk to chat or ask questions can easily disrupt your workflow.
- Lack of privacy: Like interruptions, lack of privacy in shared spaces can often make it hard for you to concentrate, especially on confidential or sensitive tasks.
- Open office layout: Not to mention, open-plan offices lead to visual distractions. You can see what everyone is doing all the time, which makes it hard to focus on what you need to do.
- Office politics: Need we say more? Working from home via a virtual office helps you avoid workplace gossip or conflicts which easily divert your attention from your tasks.
- Commotion and office events: Better than politics, office celebrations, birthday parties, or other events can be enjoyable but may disrupt your work environment.
Flexible Work Environment
Virtual work allows you to create a personalized and comfortable work environment that suits your unique preferences and needs. You have the unbridled freedom to set up your workspace in a way that promotes both productivity and creativity, whether it be a quiet room, a standing desk, natural lighting, all those things, or none of them. Being in a comfortable and familiar setting often enhances focus and motivation, resulting in higher productivity levels.
Here are five outcomes you can expect:
- Minimized Distractions: Customizing the at-home workspace allows you to reduce potential distractions in your ‘virtual office’ that might be present in a shared office setting.
- Enhanced Mental Health: Customizing the at-home workspace also creates a pleasant and stress-free environment that can positively impact your mental health.
- Optimized Equipment Setup: This is a big one. You can set up your computer, monitors, and other equipment in the way you know suits your workflow best.
- Reduced Burnout: This is even bigger. A personalized at-home workspace can help reduce feelings of burnout that arise from working in an uninspiring or uncomfortable office.
- Sense of Comfort and Familiarity: All this to say, comfort and familiarity can lead to reduced stress levels, improved concentration, and a greater willingness to engage in tasks.
Being Productive in a Physical Office
Working fully in-office is great too. Or, at least, it can be.
It bears certain benefits a virtual office simply can’t compete with. Of course, the pandemic showed us that working from home can be effective in many cases. It also showed us that face-to-face collaboration is paramount to productivity.
Here at Blau & Berg, we also like employees to work in-office if possible. There aren’t any kinks to iron out, and things like collaboration can be enhanced and onboarding made more effective.
Let’s get into these too.
In-office work promotes frequent and meaningful collaboration among your peers. In fact, studies show that people working in-office spend more time collaborating than those in full-time remote positions. In-office, you can effectively split your workweek between independent tasks and collaborative efforts, using various office resources to work together and generate innovative solutions.
Here are five collaborative tools that’re often overlooked:
- Spontaneous Discussions: Not everyone’s favorite, but you can engage in impromptu discussions, watercooler chats, or casual brainstorming sessions.
- Minimized Miscommunication: Everyone’s favorite. Face-to-face communication reduces the chances of misinterpretations that can occur in written or virtual communications.
- Real-Time Problem-Solving: When you work in the same physical location as your peers, you can quickly gather for ad-hoc meetings to address urgent issues.
- Enhanced Creativity: In addition, being physically present in the same workspace can stimulate creativity and innovation through collective brainstorming.
- Promoted Accountability: And this is often the most overlooked. Regular in-office presence can promote accountability, as you feel more responsible and can hold others to the same standard.
An Onboarding Effectiveness NOT Possible in a Virtual Office
In-person onboarding offers incredible benefits for you as a new employee. Being physically present in the office allows you not only to ask questions but to learn from experienced colleagues and gain confidence in your role more quickly. The in-office onboarding experience can lead to faster integration into your team and a better understanding of your company’s culture.
Here are five ways you’ll be able to learn faster:
- Direct Mentorship and Guidance: When you work in the same physical location as others, it becomes possible to receive direct mentorship and guidance, versus waiting.
- Job Shadowing Opportunities: In the same vein, you can also participate in job shadowing opportunities. This exposes you to new operations, workflows, and roles.
- Establishing Personal Connections: Not to mention, the in-office environment facilitates social interactions and networking opportunities, allowing you to form personal connections.
- Immediate Feedback and Support: And if there’s an opportunity, being in the same physical location enables supervisors and managers to give you immediate feedback and support.
- Building Organizational Familiarity: There’s always opportunity for this. Working in-office provides you with an opportunity to know the physical workplace, facilities, and resources.
Is There a Balance Between the Virtual Office and Physical?
Okay, they’re both right. And yes, there is a balance, but finding it can be difficult.
In the end, employers can facilitate a hybrid working environment by embracing the advantages it offers while also addressing the challenges that come with it at the same time. The first step is providing employees with the flexibility to choose where and when they work. That’s the first step. After that, the rest comes easy.
While hybrid work may present challenges, such as maintaining organizational culture and coordination, the benefits of improved work-life balance, autonomy, and productivity outweigh them.
At Blau & Berg, we’ve seen how a healthy hybrid model can positively impact both the employee and the employer. As such, our agents are always waiting to hear from you.