[8 Things to Consider Before Making the Switch]
2020 forced us to set up shop at home.
To Kinly, it came as no surprise to see organizations realize that, with video conferencing solutions, working from home could be as productive as working from the office — sometimes even more so.
As a result, a number of organizations are now talking (at least) about closing the physical office down for good; employees are to work from home. Permanently.
But have they looked at all the consequences?
Here are 8 things to consider before making the switch.
Expenses. Save on rent, electricity bills, water, cleaning, parking, food and drink —not to mention office supplies and technology. Several organizations provide free or at-cost lunch, and some even have full-time chefs on staff. But even if employers provide lunch money (and there are no bullies at home to take it), the savings from all the other items can put the company in a healthy financial state. And that benefits everyone.
Income. Yes, you read that right. If cancelling the lease is not an option, or if your company owns the building but are reluctant to sell, leasing it out might be the key! Many companies now offer their office space to organizations that are more dependent on physical spaces. Some even rent their space out for events, parties, and similar. Location, layout, and landlord terms will be crucial.
Human Relations. Less conflict, less noise, less disruption. They say the office is one of the best places to meet partners and friends, but that sword is double-edged. HR knows only too well that getting large groups of people to play nice can be a huge challenge — especially when money is involved. But if everyone’s at home…
Working from home can be a serene experience. No boss looking over your shoulder. No cubicle buzz, no colleague chatter, no printers going haywire because some intern is printing three thousand copies of the wrong form. No people, no cry.
Travel. Working from home means you wake up at work. There’s no need to rush for the train, the bus, or sit in traffic to and from the office. You’re already there. Not only will this return personal time to you, but it will also make you more available.
And since you don’t need to wake up at the crack of dawn, you will likely be fresher. In short, working from home can save tremendous amounts of time for both parties.
Legal. Ironically, many contracts bind employees to a physical place of work to avoid a situation where people just choose not to come to the office. In other words, forcing people to work from home full-time may be technically illegal. Employers must be mindful. The office often comes with many benefits for employees, and a lawsuit is the last thing either side needs.
Discipline. Working from home a few months is fine but making it permanent is a completely different deal.
It boils down to long-term effects on discipline versus short-term. As with diet and exercise, the hardest part is consistency; maintaining a high level of discipline —despite less supervision — over longer periods of time is something few can manage. Some can, but most of us need reminders and reinforced discipline, accountability, and a sense of group mentality.
Human Relations. Obviously, this is also a loss. While videoconferencing and audio-visual technology have come far to connect us, nothing beats meeting face to face. Employees need to build relationships before they can continue to interact through video collaboration solutions.
The social element in an office also facilitates information flow, networking, innovation, accurate communication, and most importantly: Wellbeing.
We’re social creatures.
Think about it. Spending a few months at home is doable for most of us. But can you spend an entire year, minus vacations, at home? Can you do three years? Five?
Meeting Rooms. A final and vital point is that most of us don’t live in office buildings. That means space is limited - and there may be other distractions at home such as children and pets! (We love them but they want our attention at all times)
A modern office building provides more than only your personal workstation; it comes with advanced technology like HD videoconferencing, digital signage, interactive whiteboards and integrated audiovisual solutions; it comes with shared workspaces like meeting rooms, recreation zones, auditoria, boardrooms, and training rooms.
All these tools and spaces provide something most home offices cannot.
Sure, tons can be accomplished through Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams or Zoom, but these applications are not meant to replace. They are meant to supplement an activity-based workday where employees can choose their location based on which tasks they need to complete — and the tools they need to complete them.
Organizations should be cautious. There are upsides, but the full consequences of the cons are hard to predict. What happens to motivation? What happens to information flow? What is the long-term effect of limited digital collaboration, of a limited set of tools?
The only iron rule should be that employers consult their employees before considering a close because even if all the pros come true and the cons don’t, closing the office can still be a massive blow to morale and have an impact on company culture and business results.