Working From Home Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be – and the COVID Outbreak Will Prove It

Author’s Disclaimer: I know and fully realize a lot of people have lost–and will lose–their jobs during COVID-19. This is not designed to be a glib discussion, but merely a different take on the “working from home during COVID changes everything” conversation.

Over the first four weeks of this #quarantine, there’s been a ton of talk about working from home.

Best practices on how to structure your day. Zoom tips. And, a whole bunch of people talking about how when this is over, how work will change completely.

Working From Home Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be – and the COVID Outbreak Will Prove It

The prevailing theory seems to be that the quarantine will prove we can all be efficient and effective in working from home. And, therefore, our employers should let us work from home whenever we’d like (and, if you listen to some people, this might be 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year!).

As someone who’s worked from home for 10+ years, but also spent 15 years before that working in an office, I have a unique vantage point on this topic.

And, I can tell you one thing: Most of you will be going back to work at the office when COVID-19 is over.

Not because your employer will be forcing you to do it–because you’ll be BEGGING to do it!

See, there’s a whole perspective few people are talking about in the remote work conversation right now. That is this: Most people simply aren’t built to work from home 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

You’re going to see that play out in the next few weeks.

My theory: it’s easy to work from home for a few days. Even a few weeks. But, a couple months? A year? That’s hard. I’ll rephrase: That’s not optimal for most people.

Again, watch what people say on social media the next few weeks for proof.

We’re social beings by nature. We want to be around people–even the introverts. Take me, for example. I’m probably in the middle–half extrovert, half introvert. Working from home works for me. But, I also desperately miss human interaction. This is why I grab so many coffees with folks. It’s part of why I started teaching at the University of St. Thomas. It’s why I’ve joined boards of directors in the past and volunteered.

People need to see, talk to and be around other people.

And you simply can’t do that when you work from home.

What’s more, some work is just better done in person. Have you had an online brainstorm recently with your clients or colleagues? Then you know what I’m talking about! Yes, some work can be done remotely. But, some work also is better served by doing it face-to-face. You can have all the technology in the world, but you can’t read full body language on Zoom. I can’t see my boss’ look on her face on Skype. In-person meetings and collaboration matters.

Finally, as you probably know by now, relationships are everything in our business. Relationships with your colleagues. Relationships with your bosses. Relationships with the media. The list goes on. And, the bulk of that relationship-building is done in person! Sure, some of it can be done digitally or electronically. But, you cement those relationships with in-person interactions. This is why I rarely do business with companies outside Minnesota–because I think seeing and interacting with my clients here makes a BIG difference in retention and future business. It’s the same reason agencies want to get on a plane and go see their clients each quarter.

So yeah, I don’t think employers will have to convince us to come back to work at all in a few months. I think we’ll be so ready, we’ll come running back ourselves.

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