According to a Gallup Poll surveying 15,000 Americans, at least 43 reported working remotely from home at least part, or full-time. This number is up 3% since 2012 and continues to rise. Many people cite greater work-life balance when working from home and as a work-life balance expert, and someone who has worked exclusively from home since 2004, I will confess that working from home has actually left me out of balance in my relationships and de-energized me much like kryptonite to Superman. Yes, I have stopped working exclusively from home and you may want to consider it too.
One of my friends, whom we will refer to as Ines, is an attorney, mother of two young children, and married to another professional. She has been working remotely from her head office and has a shared workspace that she hasn’t been to in months. She confessed that something just isn’t right. She is lacking in drive and motivation. She is questioning if it is something to do with age or hormones. Perhaps it is the lack of stimulation that a highly charged workplace provides.
Co-Work Spaces Are On The Rise
Recently, I visited a 100,000 square foot shared workspace in downtown Phoenix. Upon arriving, the energy was a palpable as the parking lot was full. We walked into the side entrance of the renovated factory. The exposed steel beam and concrete floor were all that remained in the sea of glassed in offices, open plan, rentable workstations which are offered out at $200/month, and numerous people in a variety of attire happily hustling in between unlimited free tea, coffee, filtered water, beer, and even vodka on tap.
People working out of Galvanize, as it is called, have access to a full-service gym, shower, open eating area, and a multitude of tech mavens who can easily assist with development challenges, AI questions, and even the occasional bout of frustration. Diana, my Director of Operations, at my own tech start-up, and I, left incredibly energized although vodka-free.
The Dream That Became a Nightmare
When I first started working from home, it seemed like a dream come true. I was able to set my own schedule, never miss a moment with the kids, and do as I pleased. Fortunately, I am a ridiculously disciplined person so being self-monitored wasn’t a challenge. In my day-to-day business life, I can be interviewed on a FB Live that 150,000 people watch, do numerous Zoom meetings, and finish my day having some degree of interaction with more people than I would have generally encountered in a year. My husband, a CPA, on the other hand, did not have this same level of human contact and where I flourished, he floundered.
Due to the success of my business, I brought my husband, then a comptroller for a joint venture between the Canadian and US government, home from his never dull office. At work, he had the head of HR hitting on him and sending me Photoshopped images of himself, and my husband, in matching sailing hats on a yacht. I found these hilarious. He also had the usual cast of characters – the boss who was an avid procrastinator, the office colleagues who yammered at the cooler, and despite all of the nonsense, an environment that gave him fuel for dinnertime stories that was desperately lost when he came home for good.
After about a year, my husband was bored, and took at job as a CFO of a small pharmaceutical company. The office was small, the work was boring, and he didn’t have much engagement with anyone other than the receptionist. He came home again with a resolution that it was for good. Unfortunately, other than doing our taxes, he never found any enthusiasm for what I was doing. The solitude took its toll and other than the gym and picking up one of the kids from a playdate, he lacked the stimulation of the workplace.
On the other hand, I was thriving; meeting new people, learning new things, and being in environments where people were fired up. In addition to my business roles, parenting, and being a wife, I also became his only daily adult conversation. He didn’t have friends, he didn’t socialize, he didn’t have a hobby, and the more excited I became about new projects, the more isolated he felt. It affected our marriage. We have been together for 18 years and for the last 14, have lived and worked together in the same dwelling. It became too much.
We are both excited about me leaving the house. It feels as though one of us is graduating. My husband is now looking for a consulting gig or something that can take him out of the house too. What we both deeply crave is making our home a home again and leaving our work at work as much as possible.
Scaling Means Leaving Home
In my latest venture, we have experienced rapid growth and have no plans for slowing down. In addition to 3 full-time virtual employees, I also have 3 part-time employees who work remotely. Getting everyone together for effective meetings where people are actually present and not simultaneously checking texts and having other windows open has become ineffective. That combined with my noisy Chihuahua and rescue dog who bark incessantly at the least disturbance, has led me to this point in my life where at 45, I have signed a lease, and am in the process of moving into a real office.
When Marissa Mayer, took the helm of Yahoo™ in 2012, one of her first mandates was to bring employees back to campus. Her explanation was that she felt working remotely was not as effective as working on site. She was met with tremendous backlash especially from women who felt that her stance was anti-feminist. Despite her termination in 2017 when Verizon acquired Yahoo, Mayer did manage to triple Yahoo stock in her five years.
Does Working Remotely Increase Productivity?
Several studies indicate that remote employees are more effective than in-office employees. The flaws, however, with these studies are that the respondents are self-reporting. What are they supposed to say? No, I am lazier at home. Who wants to admit that?
The real question is the definition of productivity and that is tied to what matters to the company. If productivity is making sales calls and bringing on new clients, then that is an easily measurable metric. If productivity, on the other hand, is project execution, and the rest of the team is in the office, I can promise you that there will be a tremendous amount of time wasted by not having everyone in the same room completing the task.
The Association for Psychological Science, reported that productivity when working from home is entirely related to the program being offered, how the program is implemented, and the employee’s ability to connect. One of the biggest challenges is isolation, according to the APS, and unfortunately when we feel isolated, disconnected, and lonely, that can decrease our productivity.
Factoring in Kids and Life
Although some people report feeling more productive, are they actually more productive? Let’s factor in kids, and a pile of laundry that must get done, and the fact that the central vac just broke, working from home comes with its own distractions that can pull us away from achieving what we are required to do.
On a personal level, working from home has actually caused me to work more. My office is near my bedroom and it is all too seductive to wake-up, have coffee, meditate, pray, get a run in, and jump into the office without being fully present to my kids. I can, and do, head to my office every chance I get, and that isn’t healthy for my children or my marriage.
Regardless of what some studies may say, and this is purely pseudo-science, I have several friends who are tired of working from home. They miss being able to close the door on an office and not be running to do work when they should be playing with their kids or making love to their partner. Sure, they, we, me – like the flexibility of being able to work from home occasionally however going back into an office holds an entirely different appeal.
Millennials and Generation Z Are Demanding Energizing Environments and The Ability to Work Remotely
Connor Blakely, Generation Z strategist, who frequents Forbes and Fast Company, is my friend, and now, occasional yoga buddy. Connor – I am calling you out bro! Even though I am a Generation X woman, and have kids older than Connor, it is illuminating to get his take on the world. Generation Z is about experiences, meaning, and community. They want flexibility and they want life on their own terms.
Millennials also want more flexibility. They are not opposed to being in an office, they want energizing, stimulating environments, and they want to be able to occasionally work remotely. Millennials are demanding a shift in the office environment and employers, the good ones that is, are willing to do it in order to attract and retain talent.
A millennial survey from Delloite found that almost 17% of this generation evaluate a career path by work-life balance opportunities as opposed to salary alone. This number continues to rise. Millennials and Generation Z are also familiar with the technology that allows greater productivity working remotely however they also embrace co-work spaces as an opportunity to connect and interact. In other words – they want, and are getting both flexibility and inspiring workplaces that they can come to as required.
Should You Go Into an Office?
The bottom line is that working only from home can feel isolating, distracting, and devoid of fresh inspiration. In today’s environment, you can choose to have it all – working from home and renting a space part-time or negotiating with your boss for flexible options.
Personally, I am excited to have the best of both worlds. The Lululemon years have been great however it is time to scale, grow personally, and get myself out of the house. I invite you to ask yourself if you are feeling unproductive and perhaps a bit unmotivated. If so, make a decision to do some work outside your home whether it is a co-work space or even your local Starbucks – you will inevitably feel better and much more productive.
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