Working from home vs. office environments—is one actually better than the other? It’s time to settle the work from home vs. work from office debate. Spoiler: there is no best choice. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and there’s something to be said for taking the best of both to form a hybrid option.
We’ll discuss working from home vs. working in an office, provide a hybrid working definition that merges the two, and share advice for how to manage hybrid teams.
Working From Home vs. Office
When it comes to working at home vs. working in the office, the difference is really right there in the name. Working in the office means you travel to a workplace to fulfill the tasks and responsibilities of your job. Working from home means you have all or many of the same tasks and responsibilities of your job; it’s just that you complete them from the comfort of your own home.
The essential difference is the setting—whether you complete your responsibilities from an office or from your home.
Depending on the nature of your job, you may have specific hours you are required to work from home, or you may have the flexibility to work in your own time. If you have set hours, you are expected to work and be on call during that time, just as you would be if you were working at the office.
No matter how much freedom you have to structure your own hours, there are times when you’ll be required to tune in virtually for meetings, or you may be asked to come into the office from time to time with a hybrid work structure.
Remote Work vs. Office
While the terms are often used interchangeably, remote work and working from home are not necessarily the same thing.
Working from home usually means you are actually working from your home. Sure, you may occasionally change things up and work from someplace else, like the office, a coworking space, or a coffee shop from time to time, but your main place of work is your own home.
Remote work covers a broader range of options, including working from home. Some remote workers work from other locations. They may rent an office, use a coworking space, or travel abroad, working from different locations as they travel the world.
Work From Home vs. Office: Pros and Cons
Working from Home
Working at the Office
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. There are pros and cons to both approaches, depending on the industry and how you or your team prefers to work.
Hybrid Workplace Meaning
A hybrid workplace or hybrid workforce combines both approaches. A hybrid workplace essentially allows employees to determine where they feel most comfortable and productive. If an employee is most comfortable working from home, they will complete the majority of their work there. Another employee may decide they feel more productive in an office setting and complete most of their work surrounded by their peers.
A hybrid workplace enables a better work-life balance for employees, as they can structure work around their own lives. If an employee has young children or people to care for at home, they can be where they’re needed most without having to take a personal day and without sacrificing their productivity.
The hybrid model will look different depending on the industry and organization. There’s no one set way to create a hybrid workplace. A company could allocate specific days for in-person meetings and collaboration, such as Monday-Wednesday in the office and Thursday-Friday working from home, or the company could leave it up to the employees to decide which days they spend in the office and which they do not.
If you are considering transitioning to a hybrid model for your company, you could try starting small and analyzing the results after a few weeks or months. How is the team performing? Has their productivity improved, stayed the same, or decreased? How is team morale? Is the change having any effect on your bottom line? How does the team feel about having more freedom and flexibility?
Strategies for Managing Hybrid Teams
Clear and open communication is vital to every workplace—without it, productivity slows, distrust grows, and effective decision making becomes impossible.
While effective communication is essential to the health and wealth of any workplace, it’s especially important for distributed teams who lack the ability to walk down the hall to ask a question, to see if a teammate is busy, or to read a team member’s nonverbal communication and body language.
But maintaining effective communication isn’t as challenging for remote teams as you may think. There are a number of internal communication tools, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, that help keep everyone informed and engaged with one another.
It may take a while to get used to, but be patient and understand that everyone has different communication preferences. You may even notice that some of your more shy and introverted employees communicate much more frequently and effectively when they’re not communicating in person.
Learn to Communicate Asynchronously
The overly technical name notwithstanding, asynchronous communication has become extremely commonplace in both our professional and personal lives. Asynchronous communication refers to any communication that takes place between two or more people when they’re not in the same physical space or communicating right at the same time (synchronously.)
Email, text messages, and Slack are all examples of asynchronous communication. When you send an email, you aren’t expecting the person will get back to you right away. Instead, you understand that they will reply to you at their convenience.
Asynchronous communication is important for teams to learn if your business is moving to a hybrid work model. If your team members make their own work hours or work from different countries, it’s very likely that not everyone will be available to reply to questions or messages as soon as they receive them.
This isn’t a breakdown in communication—it’s just a change. Unless all hands are called upon to resolve a crisis or meet an impending deadline, asynchronous communication allows team members to respond to questions in their own time after thoughtful consideration.
Asynchronous communication also enables employees to achieve and maintain deep focus, as team members can decide when they can afford an interruption to their work. Interruptions and distractions are commonplace in most offices, which can severely hinder a person’s concentration. When you can decide when you’re available to communicate, you can also create productive blocks of time in your workday where your sole focus is the task at hand.
Manage Hybrid Work Schedules
It’s important to define what hybrid means for your business.
When do employees have to come in? Does everyone have to come into the office? Are team members still able to work from the office if it’s what they prefer? Is everyone expected to attend meetings in person? Is every employee expected to keep to the same schedule, or do they get to (within reason) decide their own hours?
There are many different ways to create a hybrid workplace, so there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Work together with your team to determine the sort of hybrid remote work schedule that works best for everyone.
Giving employees the freedom to choose how they work best is often ideal since each employee can figure out how to be the most productive. They can also prioritize balance between their work and home lives to prevent burnout.
Prioritize Hybrid Team Building Activities
Team building is important for any workplace, and it’s especially important for hybrid teams who don’t get to spend much time face-to-face. Teams work together far more effectively the more they understand each other’s communication preferences, work habits, and sense of humor.
Virtual team building activities can include your entire hybrid team, no matter where they are in the world. They can help show employees a different side of each other, which will build mutual rapport and trust. When a team trusts each other, they’re more productive, efficient, and decisive.
A few examples of virtual team building activities include virtual escape rooms, virtual wine tastings, virtual lunch and learns, or Bring Your Pet to Zoom Days.
Build a Hybrid Work Model Policy
Establish a hybrid working policy for your office so that everyone is on the same page about what is expected. Clear policies, best practices, and resources will help you navigate a hybrid working model.
For example, share virtual meeting etiquette and online meeting rules so that everyone understands what is expected when it comes time to meet as a team.
Take your time building your hybrid workplace policies and continually ask for feedback from all members of the team. What’s going well? What’s not going so well? What issues or roadblocks are hindering productivity? How is team morale?
It’s important to frequently check in with your team as you make workplace changes. Understand that change of any kind is challenging for people, and it will take time for everyone to find a groove within a hybrid system.
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