Give Me An Office Any Day
by Larry Turner

As we enter a second year of working within a pandemic bubble, much is being written about the effects of working from home in a virtual atmosphere.  Few employers and employees are commuting to work every day and there is much discussion about buying out office leases with the expectation that employees can work from home except for needing occasional office space for conferences and using specialized equipment.  Some have suggested that this will lead to a two-tiered ranking of employees, those who are in the “office” frequently, and those who chose, and are able, to function efficiently at home.  Apparently, in this environment those who come to the office frequently are viewed more positively than those who don’t.  There are many options to working at home to retain an efficient working environment.  A friend of mine in Texas sold huge industrial boilers from his home.  But every morning, he dressed in a suit and tie and left his home for “work.”  That work was in the back of his house with its own door.  He worked there the entire day and then returned “home” after his workday was completed.  This routine enabled him to work efficiently and not be tempted to snack throughout the day, or play with the dog, or discuss the kids’ grades with his wife until the day was done.

I used to envy the home-work situation until I thought deeply about my own working environment and what I felt would be missing if I worked at home.  The environment I am referring to is that experienced by most professional people in offices across the country.  Here are the benefits I believe will be missed by those who choose to work exclusively from home:

There is no better way to understand how an office works than to be part of it every day. Every office has its own protocols, but if you work remotely they do not become a part of you until you violate them several times.
Not working side-by-side with other associates negates the need to learn how to get along with and work with others in the same position you are in.  I was always amazed at how much I learned from my associates every day that helped me perform more efficiently.
Equally as valuable, working in an office environment forced me to learn how to delegate and work with subordinates, which in turn permitted me to devote my time to more substantive areas.
Many of the learning experiences referred to above involve learning how to communicate with people at different levels.  Learning how to communicate is quickly becoming a lost art in our society and is often the reason for rising tensions between people because of some miscommunication.  This is an art we all need to excel at if we hope to live in a peaceful society.
When we lose the ability to communicate, we unfortunately lose the ability to attract customers or clients.  Being in an office and being able to observe how seasoned employees solicit customers or clients provides invaluable lessons to those of us who are taking on this responsibility for the first time.  When you see a particular approach work for a senior member of the staff, it gives the uninitiated much needed confidence to proceed by themselves.
Another lost art that can be gained by working with other professionals or executives is how to work hard efficiently.  If all you do all day long is slug it out on the computer or the telephone, you will end up in a hospital.  There are ways to work extremely hard without killing your health or your valuable enthusiasm.
If you are a hard worker, you will eventually feel the stress of your position because the harder you work the more work you will be given.  We can all learn how to deal with this type of stress by observing those who have done it for years without collapsing.  That can only be accomplished if there are other people in the office with you who you will learn from whether you want to or not.
In the end, the most important thing to learn is how to balance work and home.  If you don’t accomplish this, you will either lose your job or your family.  I always admired a much-senior executive who worked as hard as anyone I ever knew, but when it was time to vacation or take a short break he worked twice as hard at having fun and experiencing new things than he ever did at work.  This was the only way he was able to maintain the pace he set for himself at work.

With all this history in mind, for me I advocate the office approach.  It might he more expensive because of the cost of commercial space these days, but costs are coming down since many firms are giving up their space but, also, the benefits of being together with co-workers and executives you can learn from are, in my opinion, immeasurable.