We’re returning to the office. Well, some of us are. Maybe some of the time. If at all.
Is it time to change out of sweats?
Can’t make that call for you. But some offices are reopening their doors, or promising that they will soon after a delta-variant delay. That doesn’t mean everyone’s about to suit up. In a survey of more than 1,600 Skimm'rs, 85% of respondents said that they're looking for flexible and remote work options at their jobs. And in another survey, more than half of US workers agreed to these (hypothetical) terms to WFH: More than half said they’d give up Netflix, social media, or Amazon for a year. Major. And 65% were willing to take a 5% pay cut to keep working remotely. Meanwhile, huge numbers of people, millennials included, have quit their jobs, or are planning to post-pandemic. And then there’s a group of overachievers who are “overemployed,” meaning they’re using this newfound flexibility to work two full-time jobs. And we thought putting on real pants was impressive.
I still don’t know if I should go back to the office.
If you have the option, weigh these pros and cons of working from home versus the office. Or if you want to outsource that decision, take this quiz. You’re welcome. (Btw, here’s theSkimm’s official POV.)
More time and money...When you cut out a commute, you add more daylight hours to get sh*t done. Plus, we all know getting only your top half dressed for (remote) work is a lot less time consuming. And if you’re not going to and from the office, you’re probably not going to and from your favorite lunch spot. That means more money saved, too. (Unless your pay is contingent upon where you live.)
Flexibility…WFH could stand for “work from here.” Aka near home, or in someone else’s home. And if you don’t leave home for work, that means you’ll likely be able to spend more time with kids, partners, and pandemic pups. Win.
Comfort and safety...The pandemic isn’t exactly over. So if you’re worried about contracting COVID-19, because you’re immunocompromised or for any other reason, you’ll probably feel safer at home for now. (FYI: Here’s everything you need to know about vaccine immunity and breakthrough cases.) Plus, your slippers, pillows, and candles are all at home. Ah, cozy. Another bonus: Introverts may experience some JOMO.
Loose boundaries...Remote work can sometimes just mean “way more work.” One study shows that working Americans were logging three more hours of work from home each day in April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. A fix that’s easier said than done: Say “bye” to the remote office at the same time every day so that work doesn’t spill over into every aspect of your life. And if your family assumes you’re always available, make it clear that you need space to work and actually schedule time to talk with them. For help with juggling work and caregiving (and the guilt that may come with that balancing act), see our guide.
Extra screen time...Simple math: More video meetings means more screen time. So try padding your meetings with a 5-10 minute break in between, and opt to use a good ol’ audio call instead of Zoom when you can. It gives your eyes a break and makes it easier to walk and talk, or pet your dog. (Both are good for your mental health.)
Networking challenges...You can’t have elevator chats or observe how others work when you’re not in the building. And remote workers could start feeling left out if the rest of the company is going into the office. But getting to know colleagues from afar is possible with some extra effort. What might help: putting coffee breaks on coworkers’ calendars, and encouraging people to take workplace personality tests so you can figure out how to communicate most effectively.
Going to the office…
Networking opps…It turns out that watercooler chats aren’t just good for work relationships and collaboration, but also for your mental health. Here’s a term for you: “weak ties.” They’re acquaintances who have a stronger impact on you than you might think. And you’ll find them in, and on the way to, the office.
Productivity...If you’re a person who feels like going to a gym class makes you work out harder, being in the office around productive peeps might make you work more efficiently. And it doesn’t hurt that your office mates will see you doing your thing. Plus, they’ll probably be more likely to think of you for projects if you’re visible.
Desk life…The pressure to stay chained to a desk can be higher in the office, where you probably want to be seen working. Still, you should take breaks. Even a microbreak is good for you. If you can make more time, try a midday walk or the Pomodoro technique: 25-minute work intervals, each followed by a 5-minute break. After four 25-minute work blocks, take a longer 20ish minute break. This helps create a sense of urgency while avoiding, we’ll say it again, burnout. We do not like burnout.
More $$$…We’ve talked about travel and food. There’s also clothes and cosmetics to budget for. And you may have changed clothing sizes (a pandemic will do that).
Less flexibility…Doing some lunchtime laundry and putting on an afternoon face mask aren’t exactly office appropriate. Also cramping your style: Your company could have its own rules when it comes to masks (the other kind). Talk to your HR department about your back-to-work guidelines.
If you’re about that hybrid life...
Okay, Goldilocks, this one’s for you...
Face time…when you want it. And when you go in, it’s an event. Kind of like when your friend is visiting and you make sure to take her to your fave sushi spot. You might have an easier time grabbing coffee with colleagues who know it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be in the office the next day.
Variety...Commuting is much more novel when you don’t do it every day. The people-watching. The podcasts. The traffic. (Eh, we tried.) Also: You can try to go in when you’re most up for socializing, and when there’s a big meeting that allows you to get the most bang for your in-office buck. Another plus: You have the flexibility to pivot to majority WFH if you need, based on new COVID-19 guidelines.
Harder to stay organized…When you’re not in a daily routine and your bag isn’t packed from the day before, it’s easy to forget a laptop charger or leave a notebook at the wrong desk. What some executives suggest: Duplicate all of your work accessories (coffee mug included) so you can comfortably work on anything, anywhere. Another tip: Save everything, including handwritten notes, onto your laptop.
Subpar setups…It’s easier to neglect one workstation when you have another. But it’s also crucial that wherever you work, you can get any kind of task done. Because let’s face it, deciding to reserve your solo work for home and to just take meetings in the office won’t happen 100% of the time. Plan for the unplanned.
There are pros and cons to staying home, returning to the office full-time, and trying out the hybrid life. As you figure out your new normal, make sure you understand your professional and personal boundaries. And if you’re able to negotiate your work location, give yourself a real chance to find the best fit for you.