Should you work from home or in office during COVID-19 crisis?

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

It is an ongoing debate among several working classes, business executives, employers and employees in the wake of the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and subsequent partial lockdown, or what is known as lockdown relaxation in some other climes.

Others have wondered if the end of the office is not here now in this era of virtual office space, meetings, conferences, seminars, and so forth in the economy.

But what are the differences between working from home and working in an office? Let’s compare them side-by-side to help you understand the unique advantages and disadvantages of each.

Recent research from Owl Labs suggests that approximately half of employees typically work from home at least once a week and a third work remote jobs full-time, according to Nextiva.

Recall that in view of the need to further support the international efforts at containing the spread of Coronavirus, two global tech giants, Google and Facebook, recently told most of their employees to keep working from home for the rest of 2020 as part of a response to the deadly epidemic.

Agency reports say Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive of Google, informed the staff at an all-hands meeting that its remote work policy would be extended until 2021, the Silicon Valley giant confirmed Friday, May 8.

Pichai stated that any return to offices was expected to be incremental and staggered, according to the company.

The news came along with US media reports that Facebook is also letting workers tend to their jobs remotely for the rest of this year.

It was further learnt that Google employees who need to return to offices will be able to do that in the next month or two, with added safety measures in place due to Coronavirus concerns, but most of the staff will continue working from home.

Facebook has updated its plan is to reopen offices in early July 2020, but let people work from home if they prefer until 2021.

Sequel to the latest lockdown relaxation in many states of the Nigerian Federation, authorities have equally issued tonnes of safety measures to especially businesses regarding the partial reopening of their office premises amid continued Coronavirus concerns that yet have kept many at home in the country.

Many organisations have shifted their operations, tools and systems for remote teams for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) play in mitigating the damaging impacts of the Coronavirus epidemic, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria’s Honourable Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, of recent, directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Galaxy Backbone and other agencies under his Ministry to provide research grants for development of digital solutions, innovative ideas for post COVID-19 era in the nation’s economy.

Dr. Pantami stressed that this measure is necessary with regard to the possible impact of the virus on the nation’s economy even after the pandemic is defeated.

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for young innovators to place Nigeria on the path to digital economic development, he said.

The Minister stated: “The only way we can promote physical distancing and at the same time deliver our mandate is only through ICT.”

ConsumerConnect recalls that in terms of virtual pedagogy (teaching) and learning in the nation’s educational system, Prof. Labode Popoola, Vice-Chancellor, Osun State University, Osogbo, in South-West Nigeria, during an online interactive session with the academic staff of the University on setting a new agenda for the realities COVID-19 pandemic will have on the educational sector late April 2020, stated that there is no other time to commence virtual classroom in tertiary institutions than now.

Prof. Popoola urged the academic staff of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to embrace virtual teaching across the country.

The Vice-Chancellor expressed the need for stakeholders in the education sector to cooperate with policy makers to create new opportunities to propel the sector for global competitiveness.

So, for many employees and employers, this is a major adjustment in their working life during the Coronavirus period against the backdrop of the following factors.

The average American worker, according to NPR, spends at least 27 minutes on their daily commute to work, and it is getting worse. More than 14 million people spend an hour or more travelling to work.

So, experts have opined that is a lot of time you can save by becoming a telecommuter!

Telecommuting is another way to say working remotely or from home by making full use of the Internet, e-mail and phone.

However, some folks enjoy waking up early, getting ready, and having the separation of home and the office.

This is why many folks who work remotely still opt to go to a coffee shop or a coworking space.

The bottom line is people hate commuting. Work-life balance continues to surge on the importance meter for modern-day employees.

Companies that don’t recognise this are missing a huge opportunity to adopt work from home strategies that benefit their workforce, especially in these uncertain times in several economies across the world.

Some believe that perks such as infinite vacation time, free lunch at work, and related benefits are not as important when compared to the benefits of working remotely.

According to research from our 2020 State of Business Communication Report, face-to-face communication is the most preferred communication method by employees.

Not counting video conferencing, face-to-face communication is something you really only get in an office space.

It’s not only beneficial when planning for business, but it strengthens relationships and rapport with other employees.

It’s something about relationship-building that happens when you sit next to someone or bump into each other at the coffee machine.
However, communication still happens when you’re working remotely — it’s just different.

A compelling advantage of working from home is the ability to work anywhere. You don’t even need a laptop.

With a full-featured business phone app, employees can make and receive calls, attend conference calls, message colleagues, and stay online using their iPhone or Android phones.

To improve communication for remote employees, many organisations require video conferencing over traditional phone calls when communicating with coworkers.

Teams should have conference calls to align themselves with business goals. For fun, employees can even host online game nights to get to know each other outside of office life.

Some teams even rely on social media platforms for communication. It’s regarded as a cool and clever way to use the social media to stay connected while working remotely.

When working from an office, it’s likely you have a set schedule. Your alarm goes off at the same time every day, you grab your morning coffee at 7:05 a.m, and you’re at your desk by 9 a.m. ready to work, if you operate a nine-to-five working hours system.

When it comes to working from home, it’s a little different. You now have the flexibility to wake up when you choose and tailor your day to your needs.

If your company is new to remote work, chances are they still want all employees working the traditional work hours of 9-to-5.
With remote work, you can now wake up (a little) later, pick a time for lunch, and close your laptop when you want — for some, that’s 4 p.m., others it could be 7 p.m.

As more companies adopt a remote-first policy, working hours will shift to fit the employee’s schedule.

This shift means more flexibility on when you start and end your day and where you work from.

You should be able to work from anywhere that has a solid Internet connection!
However, many employees struggle to disconnect when working from home.

Up to a third of employees say they struggle to balance work and home life when working remotely.

It’s easy to shut down your computer when you see fellow office workers start to pack up for the night, but when you’re at home, those cues don’t exist.

The option to freelance and take on side projects is another massive benefit that comes with working from home.

The time you waste on commuting could be put toward taking on side projects or freelancing.

Experts say it is far more lucrative than sitting through traffic jams, especially in the cities of Lagos, Abuja, and few others in the Nigerian economy as of now.

Working Environment
When working at the office, you don’t have a choice in your work environment or office setting.

Of course, you might have a noisy coworker, or sit under the air-conditioner, which could impact your productivity.

Working from home enables everyone to set up their optimal home office or workstation.

You can choose a standing desk over a sitting one and select your choice of office furniture.
Working from home enables you to understand your optimal work environment, whatever it may be.

Financial Costs
The differences from working from home versus working at an office can be seen when it comes to finances — and one is not talking about how much money you earn.

When working in an office, you pay for the costs of commuting, such as public transit, gas, or maintenance expenses. If you’re driving, you might also have to pay for parking, particularly in the cities.

You likely also pick up a coffee or buy lunch during the day. All of these expenses add up.
When you work from home, there are tonnes of financial perks.

You don’t have to worry about sitting in traffic, commuting expenses, and you won’t be tempted to go out after work and spend money on happy hours and eating out.

Nonetheless, working from home has its own costs. In addition to broadband Internet costs, employees need to think about their energy costs like electricity.

They may also carry “startup” costs for telecommuting technology typically burdened by employers.

Typical work-at-home expenses include desks, chairs, network routers, and monitors. While you save in some ways, there are other types of costs to think through.

A study conducted by UC Irvine found that a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. If that wasn’t bad enough, it takes 25 minutes to get back on task.

That’s a big hit to employee productivity. The nature of working remotely doesn’t make it inviting to chat with coworkers.

Needless to say, productivity can get a huge uptick with remote workers. For example, call centre employees that work from home were able to boost their productivity by 13%, according to a Stanford study.

Consistent research has shown that remote workers log longer hours than their office-bound counterparts.

Studies find that it’s clear there is increased productivity in working at home versus working in an office.

However, there can be a learning curve on how to increase your productivity and reduce distractions at home.

Many organisations have had to switch to remote work for the very first time. Managers are likely concerned because they’ve never had to manage a remote workforce.

When working from an office, managers have a clear view of what team members are working on.

They can go up and ask questions, have daily check-ins, and have whiteboarding meetings to make sure everything is on track.

That’s not the case when it comes to working remotely.

This is why having the right tools is critical to remote work success. We leverage a combination of great leadership and powerful tools like Asana to knock out big projects.

As a manager, you might have the desire to micromanage employees as they go remote. Instead, it is suggested that you trust people to perform until they prove otherwise.

Employees want to do well; it’s your job to help them get there.

As many companies make the leap amid the COVID-19 crisis, it has been said that they will soon discover that a remote workforce can be a smart, strategic move.

To realise all the benefits, employers (and employees alike) need to be intentional with their business communication.

Therefore, whether you’re working remotely for a short period, or want to make the switch to being remote-first, these tips are for team members to make the best of their working life during the global socio-economic uncertainties.

Additional reporting by Alexander Davis and Gbenga Kayode

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