Serviceplan New York slowly begins reopening its House of Communication to allow for a mix of remote and office work.

In the wake of a global pandemic that is showing no signs of slowing, companies are forced with difficult decisions around their work from home policies. While offices are permitted to open in many regions, companies are fearful of the risks still posed to employees during long commutes on public transit and in close office quarters. With this in mind, mixed office and remote work will be the new normal for the foreseeable future.

Productivity hasn’t suffered – yet

In a survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA Today and LinkedIn, 54% of respondents reported that working from home created a positive effect on their productivity, mainly due to fewer meetings and no commute. However, 51% of employees reported feeling lonely at home. While productivity may remain stable in the short-term, it is difficult to say how long this will last.

Employees are working off the knowledge and intrapersonal relationships that were built in the office and growing these relationships while isolated at home is a significant challenge. While video conferencing can make up for some lack of physical connection, true innovation, collaboration, and fulfillment that vibrant office culture provides will be difficult to replicate virtually on a permanent basis.

Employers should be aware of the mental health toll

The associated mental health toll will also begin to take an effect on employees, regardless of their living situation. For those who are working in their homes alone, feelings of loneliness and isolation are surely increasing. The same study reported that, to combat loneliness, 49% of respondents are reaching out to friends and family via phone during the day or spending more time on social media – measures that are generally considered counterproductive.

On the flip side, those with children who are no longer able to attend day care or school are presented with constant distractions during the day, making deep focus difficult to achieve. 23% of survey respondents are sharing workspace with a spouse or partner, and 14% are sharing it with children engaged in online learning, which requires near constant parental engagement.

People are empowered by choice

Work from home policies are incredibly valuable in normal times. When you empower a hardworking employee with the choice to create a flexible work schedule that suits their needs, the benefits are clear. However, the operative word is choice – which has been removed in the current setting. Without choice, the benefits of empowerment and independence achieved through flexible work are not quite the same.

The House of Communication

The US House of Communication office space on 102 Madison Avenue, New York, New York

For Serviceplan Group, the House of Communication setting has always been central to the way we work and communicate. Integration and innovation are core to our company culture, and to the services we provide. While we have found ways to utilize technology and foster communication and teamwork in this remote setting, we are excited to begin a slow, safe reopening of our House of Communication to be with our colleagues again.

The benefits derived from a vibrant and encouraging workplace cannot be understated. We are human beings first and employees second, requiring human connection to be satisfied in anything we do. Going forward, we will be armed with new experiences from both the physical and virtual working world, better preparing us to tackle any project, anywhere in the world, with any team. Being flexible and responsive to our employees and clients remains at the heart of what we do, no matter where we sit.

by Madison Rhyner, US House of Communication, New York