Over the years work has evolved. For me, work is a passion, an avenue for self-expression, and the ability to showcase who I am and what I am capable of. Work as a whole—and the meaning we assign to it—is as important as the salary we make or the workplace in which we thrive. For these reasons, the value of work is best viewed apart from the time and space in which work gets done. Working from home provides the perfect illustration to this point.
As a Marketing Communications Representative for Haworth, with a wide range of roles and activities under my belt, I have enjoyed the emergence of a more flexible leadership style over the last decade. Today, I feel empowered and enabled to work from home, the office, and third place as I see fit. However, I am learning that my meaning of work requires a bit of give and take, and that place where I get work done does matter.
The opportunity to work from home sounded like a win-win scenario to me early on. I saw it as a gain of freedom, time, efficiency, and a bit of much needed noise respite. I am an independent person and loneliness doesn't bother me. On the contrary, I think time spent alone to focus actually increases my productivity.
In large urban areas like Paris, a morning and evening commute can easily top an hour. Research shows long commutes are detrimental to health and can increase stress levels. Excessive commuting also negatively impacts the environment. Rather than spend two hours of my day just getting to and from the workplace, I prefer to use that time to get work done—saving me unnecessary stress and helping the environment in the process.
Better Work-Life Balance
I like the flexibility a day at my home office offers. Where some prefer to start their day early, others prefer to work into the evening hours, or take an extended lunch break. If there are no scheduled appointments or meetings, the flexibility in how I use my time enhances my work-life balance. Knowing that the day is mine to organize makes me more productive because there is no guilt—I can put my family and my needs first as long as I get my work done and follow through on scheduled work commitments.
I love the quiet atmosphere of working from home. Sometimes, working in the office can be unproductive due to constant interruptions and the occasional quick hello, turned lengthy conversation. At home, I am able to maintain my focus, fend off distractions and Get. Stuff. Done. That isn’t to say that working from home is totally distraction-free.
Self-discipline is essential—especially for people who have a remote manager and work in a distributed team—and applies equally to the home office or the workplace. Work relies on trust and integrity. Self-discipline is necessary to carry out work tasks even though there is no boss in the room.
The Coziness of My Space
At home, the office environment is mine and I can set up my workspace in whatever way I choose. I am in control of the noise level, temperature, décor, and even background music if I want it. When working from home, I can dress, style, and behave the way I want. Because in the end it's all about getting work done—and how I do the work is up to me.
In an ideal world, work is about living life to the fullest—with room for everyone to explore their own meanings of work.
My view on working from home shifted recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When remote work became mandatory for many of us, the experience created unusual living conditions and a forced connection between work and home. Because of that, I can’t help but think that a workplace opting for 100 percent work from home is a bad “good idea.”
People often choose to work for a company not just for the role, but for the overall values and work environment. The essence of a successful organization is all about people working together—collaborating, coordinating, innovating, and making choices. This work is exceedingly difficult when team members are unable to interact in a common place. Just because we can achieve our work tasks from home doesn’t mean it is any less important to make our way to the office on a regular basis when it is safe to do so.
Contacts & Culture
The office remains essential for building an organizational culture. When it is well designed, the workplace allows for information exchange and conviviality, as well as employee self-expression. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder—to even the most seasoned work-from-home supporters like me—of how valuable a physical office space truly is for sharing and exchanging ideas.
"For me it became clear that working from home every day—without the opportunity to visit the workplace should I choose to do so—ran its course. Today, I find myself craving the opportunity to meet with my colleagues in real life—in-person, face-to-face."
Brand Content & PR Manager, Haworth
Returning to the workplace is a purposeful choice. Today, we are experiencing a new reality in how we live and work. In time, I believe the workplace will recover as a necessary physical space for connecting and collaborating with one another. We will again open our doors to regularly welcome customers. We will engage one another in watercooler conversations and impromptu after-work team dinners. We will attend one-on-one meetings and large corporate celebrations.
After all, the common thread that runs through all aspects of our lives is connection. And the workplace—as long as it provides a sense of comfort and protection while supporting health and well-being—contributes to this fundamental human need.
Every organization needs a catalyst. As François Brounais, Haworth’s VP of Western Europe, Middle-East, and Africa, said in his interview with Le Monde last May, “The forced experiment of working from home does not mean that the office is dead. But businesses must redefine its role as a place for collaboration, for creation, for inspiration, and social interaction.”
Joining together at a workplace helps us create connections, foster a sense of belonging, and enhance the overall organizational culture.
Rethinking the Role of Space
Work from home, return to the office, or work from a third place? The key is in finding the balance between virtual and in-person interaction, and in providing places that enable the space necessary for people to perform their best.
So, what does the workplace of the future look like? Our research shows the workplace will be a mix of home, office, and third places with well-being, culture, and collaboration top of mind. My choice is to work at the office whenever I have the opportunity.