April 7, 2023

The Concerning Downsides Of Working From Home

I continue to stray from pure ‘entrepreneurial’ blogs in the past to address some things that I, as a business owner and investor, am seeing, hearing or grappling with now-a-days in the workplace.

In this blog I am addressing the concept of working full time, remotely, from home, when you could be, or in fact might have been working from the office pre-pandemic. This blog is not looking at the remotely hired person who was hired to work from home and is truly remote – from the start. This blog is addressing the person who was or could/should be in the office, as they live close by.

I dislike the concept of working from home, full time, a lot. I think it stinks.

While I know this posture can be characterized as a dinosaur-like approach (as I did just turn 60!), I am just not a fan of full time working from home. Here are the things that working from home does, and does not do:

  • As a business owner, I believe it radically short-changes workplace learning and growth for the entire company.
  • Newer people, to the company and the workplace will NOT learn as much working from home. They just won’t. Greatly missing is the (1) stand in your doorway or cubicle area with a new idea to see what you think; (2) the “hey let me bounce this situation off you; (3) or the “I overheard you folks talking about (insert any topic here), and I have some thoughts” … You get the idea – spontaneity is gone and the learning that comes with it won’t happen on SLACK.
  • More experienced workers don’t get to share ideas and learnings with newer folks in real time and in the stream-of-happening. It’s hard to just “grab you” and bring you into a meeting or hallway chat about important issues … so it happens without you. Responding quickly to customer situations becomes a challenge and spawns days’ worth of meetings.
  • Culture – sorry, but nobody is going to sell me on being able to build a culture with all of the team not in the office the bulk of the time (the team that can be in the office!). For those that are remote and were hired to be remote, I strongly encourage you to schedule copious amounts of time getting into the office to partake in and help build a culture (and reputation).
  • Mercenary mindset and exchangeable/interchangeable people. This is a criticism for both the employee acting as a mercenary and the employer treating employees as chess-pieces, versus people. I believe people working remotely can create this feeling on both sides, in that just about every employer and employee is easily expendable.
  • I have a hard time believing a workday is as productive as the office day. Whilst I understand the commuting-time of working from home is able to be converted into better productivity due to not sitting in traffic/your-car, I feel being at home also comes with distractions and potential bad work habits. I have worked from home on occasion only to find myself cleaning the garage (or something) with half an eye on email in case I am needed. Might be more personally productive for me, but not the employer.
  • Lastly, and softer in nature is the fact that I feel like getting up every day, getting into a routine to get to the office and work in the office provides nourishment-and-maturing for the soul. In my opinion, humans are mostly social creatures that do well with constant interactions and in-person situations. Conversely, getting out of bed, sitting at your desk/couch/bed/coffee-shop all day are isolating situations which offer no “growth” or little advancement for you as a human and a businessperson.

When I have stated this opinion out loud, I often hear criticism of not being in-step with the current workplace and evolving norms, and I am OK with that. While I willingly accept the critique of being out-of-step with what employees may want nowadays, I also lob-back the critique that those same employees or employers have developed a mercenary-like mindset for the workplace, and that is unhealthy. I also feel that business owners who advocate working from home (full time!) are potentially building a ‘hollow’ company and culture which may encounter tough times when ill winds blow strong.

Originally posted on Forbes.com