Should Your Startup Return to the Office?
Updated on August 23, 2021 | by Evan Chase
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how businesses operate. Important decisions had to be made, like adapting to working from home, reducing work hours, and temporarily closing the offices.
Now that the world is slowly returning to normal, there comes a question – should your startup remain a work-from-home kind of business or return to the office.
This article will show you the pros and cons of working from home vs. working from the office. We’ll also discuss the most important factors to consider when making this decision for your business. Read along.
Working from Home
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many companies have adapted to working from home (WFH). This is an effort to reduce commuting, minimize direct human contact, and follow health protocols.
Employees work from home with the company’s support, like work devices, extra allowances, and a virtual workspace.
Because of WFH, many technology-based companies provide tools and software to accommodate the change. For example, hosting services make WFH possible by providing cloud storage for collaboration websites.
There are a few pros and cons of working from home. The pros are:
- Better work flexibility
- Reduced COVID-19 numbers
- Employees can work according to their preferences
The cons of working from home are:
- Less work-life balance
- Potential employee burnout, as reports say that employee burnout rose to 71% in 2020
Returning to the Office
After quite a while, people have adapted to the new normal conditions. As public places start reopening due to the improved COVID-19 situations, so do some companies with their decisions of returning to the office.
Like working from home, there are pros and cons of returning to the office. The pros to be considered are:
- Better productivity
- Effective management
- Easier to notice early signs of employee burnout
The cons of returning to the office are:
- Long commutes
- Health risks from COVID-19
Also, returning to the office has mandatory rules that businesses will need to follow for the foreseeable future, including reducing the employee capacity up to 50%. Therefore, you won’t be able to have your whole team around you. Only the most crucial employees will be able to stay with you at the office.
Work from Home vs. Return to the Office: 4 Key Factors to Consider
When it comes to working from home vs. returning to the office, there are four main factors you need to consider.
Employee productivity depends on several factors, including where and how they work. Therefore, prepare for productivity changes when WFH or returning to the office.
Carefully monitor the changes in productivity and how they adapt to it. To do so, talk to the employees about their needs as working from home can mean more flexibility or more distractions. Also, consider that some might need their team at hand, like the customer service team.
The key to adjusting how customer experiences change from WFH or at the office is to pay attention to your resources and business model. Take the measurements needed for both work methods.
For WFH, prepare the devices and the customer experience platforms your company is using. Manage their work shifts accordingly to cover the working hours yet minimize the risks of employee burnout.
For WFO, plan the work shifts better to avoid exceeding the capacity. Follow the health protocols, minimize direct contact, and regularly monitor employee health.
The changes to the work infrastructure include the technical, operational, and software needs of your startup. It’s about knowing whether the resources you have now are enough for either WFH or returning to the office.
Similar to productivity changes, adjusting work infrastructure requires knowing what the employees need. Ensure that you’re equipped with all the resources you need regardless of the work method.
For example, use easy-to-use collaboration platforms for WFH such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Google Office. If setting extra tools for WFH doesn’t work for you, then it’s better to return to the office.
Security gets a little trickier when employees work from home because they might be using public or unsecured wi-fi connections. Companies need to take extra precautions to maintain security.
This includes providing work devices, giving security training, and installing antivirus software. All of these can mean extra costs, so take measures to see what security improvements you need.
Implementing the Hybrid Model
The hybrid model is the working method in the middle between working from home and working in the office. It doesn’t require you to make up your mind. Instead, you can do both.
It works great for unprecedented factors, like the fluctuating numbers of COVID-19 cases. What’s more, it provides work flexibility, cost-saving, and maintaining productivity for employees too.
The disadvantages of the hybrid model are the need to manage roles and employee work hours better to switch between WFH and WFO. Companies must also provide the tools and access needed for every employee.
Let’s take an example from a startup, Daybase. To switch between going to the office and staying at home, they have set up a co-working space closer to where the employees work, complete with all technical and operational support.
Working from home or coming back to the office has its pros and cons. This article has presented the four factors to help decide whether your startup should return to the office or not.
After understanding the four factors, take the hybrid model into account to find the best working flow for your startup employees. Good luck.