Business guide to Coronavirus

Office space vs working from home: The benefits and drawbacks

Working from home is the new normal during COVID-19 lockdown. But would you still want to once the restrictions have been lifted? Here are the pros and cons of working from home when offices reopen.

Benefits of working from home

The COVID-19 lockdown has driven the majority of the Australian workforce into home offices with video calls and minimal human contact. But Karen Hillen, from Hillen Staff Solutions in northern New South Wales, says people have responded really well to their changing circumstances. “The businesses I have spoken to are embracing the change and employees are loving the extra time they have not having to travel to work.”

Less time spent commuting and on public transport is just two of the benefits of working from home. You’ll also save money on transport, petrol, parking fees and buying lunches. There are also fewer distractions like chitchatting co-workers at neighbouring desks and a more relaxed work environment where you can work from the couch, the garden or take calls while walking the dog. It can also open up more time to spend with family and friends (social distancing rules allowing).

From a business perspective, working from home can mean quite a bit of savings. For example, fewer employees in the office can mean fewer overheads, such as electricity, internet and rent, as you may be able to downgrade to a smaller and more affordable space. You could also save on office supplies and furniture. Not to mention, less travel means it’s better from the environment and if your employees are working from home advocates, you’ll likely make them happier in the process, too.

“After the shutdown, I think a lot of businesses will see the advantages of working from home and the ability to downsize their office space and save money,” says Karen.

Downsides of working from home

However, some employees have found working from home especially difficult and look forward to returning to the office. Jasmine Lansdell, People & Culture Director at The Works in Sydney, says working parents are struggling more than most.

“Working from home is especially difficult for those with children. Balancing homeschooling and the pressure of a normal working day is really challenging. Parents’ days have become extremely long and there is very little time for winding down, which is having an impact on mental health and stress levels.”

Another downside is the lack of calm, adult interaction in a tidy environment that they don’t have to worry about. A productive team environment is difficult to replicate and it’s challenging to manage employees remotely.

Employees who are working from home can also struggle with motivation, distractions and solitude. There can be angst about technology, the emotional stress of getting everything set up and to work on time. After all, poor-quality video calls are not a substitute for face-to-face meetings.

“A lot of people will have missed the social interaction and connection with colleagues,” says Karen. “But others love working by themselves. I think there might be a mixed way of working in the future.”

For business owners, there may also be concerns around managing productivity, time, accountability and cybersecurity in their business. Jasmine, however, believes there is hope:

“I think traditional work environments will embrace remote working much more post-COVID-19. We know now that remote working can work. I think the traditional office will evolve to include remote employees who see the office as a base rather than their only place of work.”

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