Where You Work Is Not an Either/Or Situation
There are clear benefits to both working in-person and working remotely. You can leverage both for your organization.
You Can Take the Best of Both Worlds
Employees want more remote work than they had in 2019 and probably less than they had in 2020.
Balance Should Be Suited to Your Needs
The right balance for your organization will be determined by the work you do and the preferences of your teams.
If I asked you what you do for meals, what would you say? Do you always cook at home? Or perhaps every meal you eat is from a restaurant, no exceptions?
You’re probably thinking, “No, sometimes I cook, and sometimes I go out to eat.” Which makes sense. There are advantages and trade-offs to both choices. Restaurants are delicious. But they are more expensive, and home cooking can be a much healthier option. Indeed, some people live fully on one end or the other of the spectrum, but it is more likely for someone to practice a balance between the two. Each of us finds our way to a balance that suits our household and respective resources and priorities.
Spoiler alert: Work is an activity, not a place.
Despite the way we talk about work (“I’m going to work.“), work is not a place. It’s an activity. For an increasing number of jobs, the activity is not tied to place out of physical necessity but rather to organizational or management preference. We can work in one fixed office, but we don’t have to.
This point presents a serious opportunity. We can choose how much we should work in an office.
Like an expertly made meal, offices are exceptional in many ways. They offer higher-quality social bonding and are superior for collaborative work. But office work is also more costly. Professionals spend an average of seven hours per week commuting and almost $500 a month in added expenses (to say nothing of the organization’s costs). Offices are also busy and often noisy. The most rigorous study of remote work, conducted in a controlled trial with identical work tasks, found that independent productivity was 13% higher for remote workers than their on-site counterparts.
It isn’t just about productivity. Employees say they would choose remote work over a portion of their salary (10% or more) or in place of a sizable pay raise. Even facing remote work challenges while isolated or without schooling and childcare in 2020, 97% of professionals reported at least one meaningful benefit from their working remotely. Dozens of studies conducted in 2020 found that between 62-80% of workers wanted to work remotely at least part-time post-pandemic.
Focus is essential to completing independent work, yet the office environment can be actively disruptive to this. But interaction is essential to achieving cooperative work, for which the office environment can be exceptional. That’s why the path forward isn’t black-and-white. Part-time remote work is a more popular option with professionals than full-time remote work. It’s also more popular than being in a shared office full-time.
In a survey of 2,900 professionals across metro Atlanta, the average and most popular choice for how often to work remotely was between 2 and 3 days a week.
What's the right balance?
You understand the trade-offs between round-the-clock working from home and full-time work in an office. Your next step is to consider organizational priorities and culture, the types of work activities, and different departments’ needs.
Here is a simplified example of how you might apply the Balanced Work Framework to help determine remote days for members of your team or organization:
|Proportion of employee work tasks completed independently|
|High (>75%)||Medium (25-75%)||Low (<25%)|
|Employee preference and ability to work remotely||High||4+ Remote Days / wk||2-3 Remote Days||0-1 Remote Day|
|Medium||2-3 Remote Days||1-2 Remote Days||0-1 Remote Day|
|Low||1 Remote Day||0-1 Remote Day||0 Remote Days|
So, Balanced Work means employees working some of the time remotely?
Yes, that is a critical piece of the puzzle. We call that Rebalancing Where You Work.
There is more to consider, though. Where people work connects directly to when they work. And when people work also relates to how they get to work when they are on-site. The well-known discomfort of crowding on roads and parking decks will feel even worse in elevators and lobbies.
Being intentional about these choices is the heart of our Balanced Work Framework:
Rebalancing Where You Work
Is your office optimized for the work that is actually going to be done there? Are employees working from home offices that have the same thought and resources your leased offices do?
Rebalancing When You Work
What times do employees work to suit their lives and provide for optimal synchronicity across teams? If you want to facilitate better engagement between teams, you need to align when those people are in the office. Alternatively, are you splitting teams to ensure coverage? Are you using this for social distancing within your building or office space?
Rebalancing How You Get to Work
As employees face daunting commutes, a part-time return to the office means a part-time return to the time, cost, and stress associated with the commute. Consider the commuting challenges in a pandemic and their implications on parking and commute-related employee benefits.
Rebalancing Why You Travel for Work
Business travel is costly, and the expectations for in-person meetings have diminished during the pandemic. Do you have a clear framework for assessing where travel is deemed essential or where virtual tools can span distances more efficiently?
Bottom line: You don't have to reinvent the wheel to rebalance work.
Striking the right balance for your organization is a process. We’re sharing this Balanced Work Framework to help you craft a work environment suitable to your business needs. You know your organization and your people, but you don’t have to start from scratch or navigate each junction solo.
This Rebalancing.Work website is a home for curated information and resources built on a decade of remote work and mobility advising for organizations of all types—from small offices to Fortune 500 firms. You can tap into that experience for your organization and engage us as a no-cost advisor to provide guidance and connect you with national best practices and local peers.
To learn more, download our free Balanced Work Framework slide deck below. Use this deck to introduce your colleagues to our framework and spur discussion on the interconnected topics that will be part of rebalancing work throughout 2021.
We are here to help with free, personalized services, including connecting you with other local organizations tackling similar challenges. Click here to explore the ways we can help.
Balanced Work Framework
We’ve built a downloadable guide to help you navigate the future of work. This short slide deck explains the Balanced Work framework and orients you to more ready-made tools and templates you can use. Share this overview with your colleagues or ask us to give an introductory presentation on Balanced Work to your team.
Yes, remote work can really (objectively) be more productive.
In one of the most rigorous experimental assessments of remote work, Stanford researchers found a 13% performance increase for remote workers compared to the control group.Read More
There isn't one exclusive best place to work.
Study after study finds that employees favor a mix of remote work and office work in the future. Based on over 170,000 respondents, preferences cluster around working remotely two days per week, with some employees wanting a little less or a little more.Read More
Don't just take it from us.
The Balanced Work approach is becoming more and more ubiquitous. Every day there's another press release from a company rethinking how it will do work in the future.Read More
This Was Made With You in Mind
Our team crafted this eBook to help you create a more balanced workday, even in the face of ever-changing circumstances. Learn how we can bring more support to your company right now.
Looking for more practical guidance as you prep your 2021 playbook?
Check out these popular Balanced Work resources.