#50 The Office Work Debate: At Home or Brick-&-Mortar?

office work debate

There is a fierce office work debate as mask-wearing declines and Americans are itching to enjoy the summer life. Employers must come to terms with either work from home, in-office, or a hybrid.

In One Corner

On one side of the office work debate, companies want workers in the office for myriad reasons, including:

  • people are social creatures, and they need social interaction
  • workers are not disciplined enough to get work done amidst the distractions of home life
  • employees generally need structure, direction, and supervision
  • the ability to engage with others about ridiculous or mundane aspects of work is good thing
  • there is no spontaneous beer evening or a table football tournament
  • it helps in production of endorphins and this helps creativity, innovation and productivity

And it seems one of the strongest arguments for bringing people into the office, according to recent articles, is: it promotes impromptu conversations that lead to innovation.

In the Other Corner

Let us assess the other side of the office work debate. Arguments against hard-line policies of brick-and-mortar environments include:

  • introverts work best in a quiet zone without distractions
  • open office plans are a hindrance to work and demean the human spirit
  • employees have more control over their time
  • in-office policy is mostly about power control and old-fashioned social proof
  • the freedom of not being confined to cube farms allows for creativity and originality
  • COVID has shown that some employees can be just as, if not more productive from home
  • helps retain women in the workforce

And perhaps the strongest argument for allowing employees to work from home: because they can.

Despite the corner you gravitate towards, I encourage you to read Post #49 for strategies that will help your career flourish.

The Human Corner

For one minute, let’s forget about productivity, power and profits.

And let’s ask ourselves, in the midst of WFH contemplation, what about human dignity?

First, how about companies stop forcing humans to over-congregate, whether in open spaces or in cube farms? Second, what if companies were to stop demanding how, where and when ‘workers’ should be productive. Picture a ban on this one-size-fits-all philosophy. A philosophy implemented, most likely, because it’s easy and cheap.

Instead, picture an environment wherein companies value employees as humans. In other words, ‘workers’ are not thought of as machines that need to be ‘fixed’ or as cattle that need to be herded. In fact, they are not even thought of as ‘workers.’

Imagine a world in which each employee possesses inherent value and human needs. Also imagine a way each employee can fulfill those needs in conjunction with providing work value. Those needs could include quiet time, privacy, or access to daylight. For others, those needs could mean eating when they need to eat or being sick when they need to be sick.

Perhaps the most important human need is the freedom to practice agency over our own human lives.

Are your employees treated as humans first or money-makers first?

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