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Work from home or work from the office - is there a win-win solution?

www.sightsinplus.com | December 15, 2023

To identify possible solutions to this situation, let’s revisit the commonly known benefits, from the employees’ perspective, of work-from-office versus work-from-home.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, several organizations, especially in the IT service industry, shifted to a Work from home model almost overnight. To everyone’s surprise, this model worked well for most of the organizations. Not only did it facilitate the continuation of business, projects, and customer relationships as usual, but it also saved huge costs for the organizations.

However, over time, the dark side of the work-from-home model became apparent with the emergence of moonlighting and higher instances of job hopping. Now, organizations are trying to ‘return to normal’ by attempting to mandate work-from-office. However, several employees perceive it as an imposition and are displaying resistance towards returning to the office. Many organizations have also witnessed a slew of resignations since the introduction of this mandate.

To identify possible solutions to this situation, let’s revisit the commonly known benefits, from the employees’ perspective, of work-from-office versus work-from-home.

Work-from-office benefits

Identification: Employees have a sense of belonging when they are in the physical space provided by the organization and have face-to-face interaction with their peers and colleagues. Being physically located in the organizational workspace gives individuals an identity that is linked to that of the organization. This identity makes them feel emotionally connected to the organization and aligned with its goals, which motivates them to work for it and contribute to its growth.

Culturation: Every organization has a culture that encompasses the shared beliefs, values, and assumptions of a majority of its employees. Culture is evident in workplace aesthetics, symbols, ceremonies, and interpersonal interactions. The physical experience of the organization helps employees understand and imbibe the culture over time. It helps them adjust and navigate their way to bring in new initiatives, get work done, and deal with challenges.

Relationship-building: The increased possibility of having planned and unplanned interactions with supervisors, subordinates, team members, senior leadership, and other members of the organization provides more opportunities for visibility and building closer and more meaningful relationships. Besides delivering potential networking benefits for professional and personal growth, these relationships also satisfy the inherent human need for social bonding and create prospects for strong friendships.

Work-from-home benefits

Luxury of time: Employees have realized that there is considerable time being saved on a daily basis because of the absence of commutes, minimal small talk or gossip around tea/coffee/smoke breaks, and limited unnecessary meetings that tend to happen more in the offline mode. The time and energy saved are helping employees become more productive in their work, pursue hobbies, and maintain a healthier work-life balance.

Higher disposable income: Employees have been able to save considerable money otherwise spent on house rent and other expenses, which are related to traveling or commuting to the office and personal grooming. These savings are resulting in an opportunity for investment in assets and higher purchasing power.

Personal well-being: Employees are able to execute their caregiving and household responsibilities in a more satisfying manner. Besides, being away from the office reduces the possibility of politics and conflicts that an office environment invariably breeds. Time saved is also helping them take care of themselves and reconnect with their aspirations and goals in their personal life. This is not only reducing their stress but also enhancing their psychological and spiritual well-being.

A comparison of these benefits indicates that though work-from-office can increase employee satisfaction and engagement, working from home can help them live a more fulfilling and complete life, which can also enhance their commitment and retention in their organization.

Besides, if employees have worked long enough in the organization in the pre-COVID era, they are likely to experience the benefits of work-from-office (identification, enculturation with the ways of working, well-established relationships) even if they work from home. However, we also know that the work-from-home model is not the most appropriate for everyone, and there will always be some employees who would want or need to work from an office.

A possible solution?

The suitability of work-from-home, work-from-office, or hybrid models depends on the demographic and professional profile of employees, apart from their personalities, preferences, and values. A multitude of factors, for example, gender, generation, marital status, support at home, physical abilities, caregiving responsibilities, nature of job duties and responsibilities, work experience with the current organization, and seniority, would have a role to play in determining which model works best for whom.

So, what is the possible solution? Organizations can focus their efforts on profiling employees who are more suitable for one model than the others. Employee surveys, artificial intelligence, and HR analytics can play a major role in making this assessment.

To make different work models coexist and be sustainable, organizations can accordingly rethink job design, performance measures, compensation structure, and training programs to enable a better fit with individual preferences, competencies, aspirations, and constraints. Instead of trying to return to normal, this may be the right time to reassess job roles and redefine career paths. This is not an easy task and can be wrought with questions about feasibility and long-term effectiveness.

However, well-thought-out, strategically planned, and empathetically executed work policies may not only accommodate different employee needs, reduce insecurity, and increase retention of talent, but also enable organizations to meet D and I goals, comply with certain ESG requirements and flourish through employee performance.

This article has been authored by Prof. Smita Chaudhary, Faculty of Human Resources, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://sightsinplus.com/hottopic/workforce/work-from-home-or-work-from-the-office-is-there-a-win-win-solution/ )