Working from home or returning to the office | Business Butler

Should small businesses return to the office or continue working remotely?

Business owners are renowned for making tough decisions, it’s part and parcel of what they do. From hiring and firing to expansion and closure, if you don’t like making important decisions then don’t run a business. The latest decision facing business owners is one that they would never even have contemplated 18 months ago - should they continue running the business remotely or return to their place of work?

There are conflicting reports of what the working landscape will look like over the coming months and years. The Centre for Cities think tank predicts that people will be back to working five days a week in the office within two years. Conversely, 86% of the UKs biggest companies do not plan to haul staff back to the office full-time and are planning for a mix of office and home working. Unfortunately, small businesses do not have the resources of the bigger corporates, so what is the best choice for them?

This depends on several factors that include the sector they are in, the size of the business and even the location. The type of management style of the business owner will also determine what decision to take. Those who like to micromanage will prefer to work from an office where they have greater control over their employees. Whereas someone with a delegation leadership style will have confidence in their team and will be happy working remotely. Let us have a look at some of the advantages that both options offer.

Returning to the office

Communication will undoubtably improve when a business returns to working in an office. Despite excellent communication technology from companies such as Zoom, the quality of any virtual meeting is dependent on the internet connection of users working from home (WFH). In the office, team meetings can be held spontaneously and are regarded as being more productive than virtual ones. If you just need the advice of a colleague, then you simply go over and speak to them.

Productivity levels are arguably higher when working in an office because there are fewer distractions . The very nature of WFH mean that there will be interruptions from family members, pets and even delivery drivers. Most workers are accustomed to the structure of the working day in the office and find it difficult to remain as disciplined at home.

We are a sociable bunch by nature and crave the company of others so when teams return to working together in an office environment there is a positive effect on staff wellbeing. Whether that is through a morning coffee break together, a birthday lunch or team building activities.

Furthermore, going to a specific place of work gives a physical divide between work and homelife, which reduces the risk of burnout. Businesses that are office based also have greater control over company information and other data.

Staying at home

One of the biggest advantages of WFH for businesses is a financial one. Overheads are minimal so there are big savings to made from not needing to pay business rates and rent. An added bonus for staff is that they no longer have to endure the dreaded commute to work. The average journey time is approximately one hour for UK workers and this can have a negative effect on energy and stress levels.

Having spent the best part of 12 months working from home staff will have fine-tuned their daily working routine for optimum performance and any move back to an office will mean a period or readjustment that can affect productivity, albeit for a short period.

WFH provides greater flexibility and agility in working arrangements. Employees may be willing to work later in the evenings or on weekends, which could help meet the need of the business.

A flexible home working environment can help a business attract new talent and open up the business to a wider pool of applicants who for whatever reasons can’t work the traditional 9 – 5 office hours. There is arguably a better work-life balance when WFH and research indicates a reduction in absenteeism as well.

Maybe the solution for most small businesses is not to choose one option over the other but employ a hybrid model. One where the working week is divided between office and remote working, spending two days in the office and three from home for example. A trial period can determine which days are best spent in the office. WFH or return to the office? At the end of the day it is down to each business owner to do what is best for their business.

Business owners making important decisions, well, that’s just another day at the office, or home.

 For advice on what is the best option for your business, please click here.