Work from Home vs. Return to Work: The Great Debate

By September 26, 2023 No Comments
return to work or work from home

Today is September 25, 2023. It’s been a solid three years since the mass confusion of COVID shut down the world, stopped manufacturing plants and clogged supply chains around the world. And there’s a lot of talk, and debate, about the need to return to work. Not doing work, but to the office.

I remember when, back in March and April of 2020, it seemed the world was in a massive brain fog. We were waiting for this apocalyptic event to crumble every bit of our humanity, wondering if we were going to have a job or even if there was going to be a financial system so we could pay bills, not to mention buy food. Rumors were abundant, conspiracy theories were either super farfetched or they started to feel like they had a bit of truth.

Organizations with employees who didn’t need to show up in person had them stay home instead of coming into the office. No one knew for how long but commuting into the office wasn’t necessary during these crazy times. But was this meant to last? Over the last few years, we’ve found that people can actually do a lot of work while not in the office and not spending time commuting is actually pretty cool. At least, for employees, working from home can be pretty cool.

Of course, not everyone is happy working from home. Some people have wanted to return to work to see their friends and get some face-to-face interaction. Others want to return to work so they can have a quiet, professional environment to work in. Others need to return to work to get the right equipment and high-speed internet to do their jobs well.

What About Forcing Return to Work?

So here’s the rub I’m seeing: People are upset about how the whole return to work conversation at the corporate leadership level is too heavy handed. Articles like The CEOs drawing a hard line on return-to-office policies are too easy to find. You can imagine how this talk is received. Memes about how we are supposed to return to work for the culture… to participate in and enhance the culture… but what kind of culture is there when you are practically the only one who abided by the return to work demand?

What if the focus actually shifted from being in the office to improving the quality of work performance? What if you did this in a persuasive, rewarding way instead of mandates that don’t make sense to your workforce?

“But wait, you can’t do call-center tasks from home!” Or, maybe you can. JetBlue (an airline company) has employed a work-from-home call center workforce for years. It’s a coveted role.  800Contacts also has call center jobs that are fulfilled from a home office. Organizations have changed how, and where, work is done. High speed and high-quality tools (computers and phone systems) have changed the environment.

So really, what if we focus more on performance? What if we reward performance instead of count the minutes an employee is in a chair? Of course, sometimes chair time matters but not always. The problem is when you apply management or performance metrics uniformly, regardless of the role.

Focusing on productivity, with different metrics for different roles, starts to make more sense. Questioning how we did things starts to make more sense. And all of the sudden, tools like Snowfly’s performance management, employee engagement, and rewards and recognition systems become a critical part of effective management. They impact your employee retention and employer brand, not because they are cool or trendy but because they send the right message to your team. That you value their thinking, their abilities, and what they bring to your team.

That’s a powerful message… more powerful than a mandate that people can’t make sense of.

Jason Alba

Jason Alba

I'm passionate about building great cultures. I love respect in the workforce, especially respect that is earned. I love strategic management, leadership, and vision. I love healthy companies through profitability. I love employee engagement, employee performance, and employee satisfaction. I love how Snowfly can help YOUR organization work towards all of these things.

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