Back to the office? Not so fast

June 22, 2023

I’ve worked remotely for decades, evangelizing about how great it is: greater productivity, less stressors like commuting and parking costs, better work-life balance. Then years later, the pandemic lockdown proved me right.

In recent days, however, a certain cable news show, along with high-powered types like Martha Stewart, has been routinely griping about remote workers. They accuse them of being lazy and unmotivated, spending their days watching movies or day-drinking. It’s part of a growing push to return to work-as-usual.

As a freelancer, I worked on a project during the lockdown where my colleagues were (naturally) working remotely. While I was used to it, they were thrilled to discover how work fit into their daily life in this new way. They had far more flexibility to get their tasks completed during the hours that suited them best, freeing up more time for family and hobbies.

When rumblings began of having to go back to their office, more than a few curse words found their way into the Zoom meetings. That’s reflective of a stunning survey of remote workers, in which 7 out of 10 said they would quit their job if forced to return to the office environment.

According to Forbes, studies show that productivity increased during the pandemic, 47% in 2021. Digging deeper, 34% of office workers note that interruptions by colleagues break their concentration and workflow, versus 16% of remote workers. Commuting takes its toll as well: 28% of office workers feel it affects their productivity.

A remote work arrangement helps companies tap a much wider pool of talent and reduces attrition. And not for nothing, the environment benefits from fewer commuters; remember how weirdly clean the air was in L.A. at the height of the lockdown?!

With positives like this, going back to the same old office model seems counterproductive. So why the push to do it? Yes, there are the typical concerns that remote workers might goof off (they don’t), but a study of 150 CEOs mainly reflects frustration over difficulties in collaborating, building teams, and communicating effectively. For young workers, opportunities for mentorship are also fewer.

Even as the growing push to get workers back to their cubicles, it seems that management needs to approach these concerns with a different eye, rather than give up on the advantages that remote work delivers.

Overnight, the pandemic changed how we live and work. Many of those changes are simply here to stay (hello, GrubHub and Instacart!). Remote work is one of them, so let’s embrace the ways it can positively impact both our world and our lifestyles.

What are your thoughts on remote work? Have you done it? What are the benefits and drawbacks? How has it impacted local businesses in your community? Tell us what you think in our Community Soapbox!

Cindy Grogan is a writer, lover of history and "Star Trek" (TOS), and hardcore politics junkie. There was that one time she campaigned for Gerald Ford (yikes), but ever since, she's been devoted to Democratic and progressive policies.

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DemJones on Aug 23, 2022 8:01 AM
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