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Should I Return to the Office?

When it comes to the question ‘should I return to the office’, there is a very simple answer: it depends. I’m sure when you searched ‘should I return to the office’, you were looking for a more helpful answer than that. However, that is the truth of the matter. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer because it all comes down to the person asking. Still, by the end of this article, you will hopefully have the information you need to realise your own answer to ‘should I return to the office.’

Benefits of An Office Environment

Personally, ‘should I return to the office’ is a question I have had personal experience with and I understand the dilemma it causes. For some people, the answer is obvious from the beginning but for others like myself who might be new to an office-based job, the benefits of an office environment can seem a little vague.

One of the biggest benefits of an office environment is the community it brings. While it’s human nature to crave some kind of human interaction (little or large), this is not the only reason you should return to the office. Many people can get this kind of interaction from a remote working environment and therefore do not consider it a factor for returning to the physical office. However, the community an office environment brings is about more than just having people to interact with. 

When you are working remotely and have the ease of moving from task to task at the click of a button, it is much harder to remember to take time for celebration. It might not sound like much but these moments of acknowledgement for a great piece of work, promotion or even someone sharing a personal celebration are a big part of job satisfaction and fulfilment. They can stop a job from feeling like a drag and something you have to do. While it’s no secret we all have to work to live, it is these little moments that make something we spend a lot of our life doing more enjoyable.

We can all be honest and admit that part of this enjoyment also comes from switching off at the end of the day. Of course, everyone loves going home but it is that rewarding feeling of a hard day’s work that really brings this feeling home (literally). Many people do not have the privilege of a home office or even a separate room in their home they can work from. That leaves many people blurring the lines between work and home. Of course, remote work does not have to be confined to the home but for most people, this is the case. So, many people are using their bedrooms or living rooms as their offices. By doing this, there is no big ‘switch off’ at the end of the day. 

Benefits of A Remote Environment

One of the biggest things the pandemic taught us was that nobody wants to feel like they are wasting time anymore. So, when it comes to commuting and meetings that go nowhere, it is hard to stop your mind from wondering about all the productive things you could be using that time for. Commuting, in particular, can be what really makes or breaks your ‘should I return to the office’ decision. For some people, it might take a five or ten-minute walk to arrive at the office. For others, it can require a 45 min to an hour drive or train ride. There is no shame in deciding remote work works better for you because it gives you an extra productive hour in the day. 

Often people joke that ‘a meeting without food could have been an email.’ However, there is a serious reality to this comical phrase. Sometimes, meetings are used to bring people together and make sure everyone is on the same page. Other times, there are used for essential brainstorming and research has proven that creative tasks are often more successful when people are in the same physical space. It makes it much more likely that ‘lightning in the bottle moments’ will happen. So, it makes sense that you would want to be in the office if you are the kind of person who works well like this. 

However, not every meeting will be a creative one. For ones that are being used for updates or a regroup, do people physically have to be in the same room for this to take place? Physical meetings can often disrupt the flow of people’s days and even distract from tasks as they wait for them to happen. Remote work can help you organise your day better and focus on the work at hand when you know you will not have to leave that same space to attend a meeting. That means even meetings that last a few minutes will not feel like a waste of time and make it more likely that you will take on board the information that was shared.

People who live on their own might not enjoy the isolation remote work can bring but again this is not the same for every individual. Between work and our own hobbies/projects, it can be quite easy to neglect those closest to us in our lives. But removing the commute and just overall exhaustion an office environment can bring might leave us with more energy and time to put into those relationships. Even just being able to take our lunch breaks with these people will contribute to the all-important work-life balance. It can even help us during a difficult day and remind us that there is a life outside of our jobs. 

The Main Concern When Deciding ‘Should I Return to the Office?’

While most people search for the answer to ‘should I return to the office’ looking for genuine benefits and disadvantages to work and life, there is an unspoken reason a lot of you may be reading this article now. Guilt. Even after two years of pandemic life, many people’s attitudes towards our working lives have not changed. This includes both employers and fellow employees alike. Older generations believe younger generations want more for less and younger generations believe the older are stuck in their ways. This just further proves the point that ‘should I return to the office’ is a personal decision.

If you are still unsure about your own answer then I would encourage you to speak to your co-workers. You might be surprised to find they are feeling the same way but are also worried about sharing their decision for fear of being judged. If it is guilt that is holding you back from knowing whether or not you should return to the office then you know your answer already. If you know how you work best and you have the opportunity to work that way then do not let what others could think of you rob you of a decision that could vastly improve your quality of life.

Skye Walshe-Winwood

Skye Walshe-Winwood

I'm a Junior Copywriter, podcast host and author in training.
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