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Is the office the best place to get the most out of people?

By Margie Ireland | |5 minute read

COVID-19 forced executives to re-evaluate how we work. But despite feeling the pandemic’s end, many employees haven’t rushed back to the office.

Remote work might be here to stay. Is one mode of work better than the other? Or is it best to fit the job to the human? 

Each work environment has unique strengths and drawbacks


Since 2020, numerous articles on the benefits and drawbacks of remote versus office work have been published.

But when viewed from 30,000 feet, this issue is far more complex than any singular argument. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each approach.

Remote work pros

  • Flexibility in work hours and location. In 2023, Australia’s labour market is drum-tight. Every time a business replaces a departed employee, it can cost them up to almost $24,000, factoring in recruiting and training. In contrast, retaining talent is far cheaper. So by providing them with the option to go remote, employees remain happy, and employers spend less on turnover.

  • Eliminates office space costs. If a company decides to go fully remote, it will save significantly on rent and utility bills. Currently, it costs about $900 per employee for office space in Sydney, and the average electricity bill runs about $1,200 per month. For a company in scale-up mode, every saved dollar could be put to good use.

Remote work cons

  • Less accountability. In the office, managers can easily monitor performance. But in remote work environments, it’s difficult to assess who is working on what and the effort they’re putting in. Even worse, the emergence of bossware (i.e., spyware that tracks time spent on tasks) has generated considerable resentment. 

  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness. Humans are social animals. So without the camaraderie offered by colleagues, the mental health of employees can suffer. Left unchecked, this can lead to depression and reduced work performance. 

Office work pros

  • Mentorship opportunities. In the office, it’s easier for experienced employees to share key learnings and their skills. This way, junior employees may advance quicker in their organisations, saving companies from recruiting external talent.

  • Reduced distractions. For some, working from home is a massive challenge. Kids make noise, pets vie for mum/dad’s attention, and that basket of laundry begs to be folded. By leaving home concerns at home, employees can focus fully on their work. 

Office work cons

  • Shared workspace issues. Most employees don’t have a standalone workspace. Rather, they work in cubicles or, worse, at hot desks. These work areas lack privacy and storage space, and they can be noisy.

  • Lack of employee autonomy. During the pandemic, many workers grew to love their home office. They didn’t have to commute, they could work in an inspiring place, and they could set their own schedule. In the office, they stand to lose most of these benefits.

Take time to get it right

Complex problems, like the one between remote and office work, require a multifaceted approach. There is no silver bullet. So, the correct approach involves listening to stakeholders and keeping lines of communication open. 

For example, if there’s a considerable desire for remote work in a workplace, the company can meet employees in the middle. They can offer hybrid work and/or the option to go fully remote, pending the satisfaction of certain conditions. 

Striking a balance is always a challenge. But by embracing this path, companies can boost both wellness and profits. 

Margie Ireland is an executive coach, psychologist, workshop facilitator and speaker.


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.