As companies begin to seek employees willing to return to the office, they often make the mistake of thinking that they need to entice them with flashy office spaces. However, the real problem lies not with the office itself, but with the commute. Many business owners prefer to live near their offices, but employees often choose to reside in more affordable regions or areas close to their families, friends, and other personal connections.
For the majority of human history, working from home was the norm, and commuting into a city, whether it was Babylon or New York, was the exception to the rule. Our forebearers managed their households, taught their children, tended to their fields, and found their work-life balance within the confines of their homes. Only when necessary, would they venture out to markets with their goods or to buy something. It’s essential to remember that the concept of commuting to a central workplace daily is a relatively recent phenomenon. As we navigate the challenges of modern work dynamics, let’s draw inspiration from our roots and explore how we can harness the benefits of remote work.
While most offices are strategically located where businesses can meet and leave a lasting impression, employees opt to work from home not because the office facilities are lacking, but due to the long and arduous commute. Spending an hour or more traveling from their homes to their workplaces can be a significant deterrent. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but having exclusively worked for remote companies since 2018, I can attest to how it changes one’s perspective and preferences.
Ultimately, I believe the resistance against remote work stems from generational differences. Younger bosses, including those of my age or younger, tend to embrace and promote remote work as the standard. On the other hand, older bosses often favor having employees physically present in an office. The way we grow up learning how to manage and lead people can make it challenging to adapt to alternative methods. Personally, having worked extensively in the virtual worlds of Slack and Discord, even when I was in an office, I primarily communicated through chat platforms. This allowed me to develop soft skills such as persuasion and team leadership from behind a screen, rather than relying on direct, day-to-day interactions. It also provided me with a keen sense of discerning who can work autonomously and who may require more personal attention. Acquiring these skills, whether in person or online, is no easy feat, but once mastered, it becomes difficult to transition back to the traditional office setting.
Due to these factors, more managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs are likely to embrace remote work and perceive having an office as an unnecessary expense. These companies will focus on attracting the best talent from anywhere in the world, rather than restricting themselves to the best in a specific geographical location. They will redirect funds that would have been allocated to office spaces towards enhancing systems architecture or expanding their workforce. While it’s challenging to predict the future with certainty, my experience has shown me that the market economics of commuting have made working in an office an impractical option for myself and many other Americans.
The misconception lies in thinking that a lavish office space will entice employees back. The real issue is the burden of commuting. As more managers and leaders experience the benefits of remote work, they recognize the potential for attracting global talent and allocate resources accordingly. Not every company can do this, but those that deal in ideas instead of physical things will be more prone to adopting it. The dynamics of the modern workforce are evolving, and the economics of commuting make in-office work increasingly impractical.