Assumptions expressed by Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
There is a lot of talk right now about hybrid workplaces, work away, and the fear of returning to the office. There are many stories about how employees are leaving and how employers need to embrace the future of modern work.
As a software engineer, then a consultant, and now co-founder of my own company, I went through many workplace changes, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
I believe there is less to do with the problem we are facing today Where We work and to do more Workplace culture. If you are an entrepreneur or manager, understanding the intricacies of the culture can help you get rid of the standard clutches that scare employees. And if you are an employee, you may be interested in the options of working exclusively from the office or from home.
Related: Far away work is here to stay: Are you ready for a new way of life?
Work from a traditional office
My career started in a company where every employee worked from the office. That doesn’t mean we can’t work from a distance. Most of us were software engineers, and of course, we could do almost everything from home, but most of the staff chose to be in the office.
I mainly worked in the office, because I was learning ropes and needed the help of friends. Some of my co-workers had a job that involved meeting clients at their place of work, but, eventually, everyone would return to the office at some point in the day. Sometimes, some people chose to work from home, and it was generally known that they were not in the mood to come to the office that day, and that was fine.
Looking back at this starting point of my career, I don’t think I can be successful at home. Most of my work was given to me by others on ad hoc basis. For example, when I completed a task, I would show it to the senior, and they would tell me what I needed to change or give me something else to work on. It was quick and easy to get help from colleagues in the hall. And if I needed a break, there was always someone to have coffee with. At some point, I became so accustomed to this work style that I realized FOMO as I spent many days on the client site.
I didn’t leave the company because of the office environment, but I was ready for more challenging work to move forward in my career. Many of the young people I talk to, who are in the early days of their careers, agree that working from the office is a way to stay in touch with the community and avoid loneliness.
Work from the office with employee allowance
At some point in my career, I worked for a company that focused a lot on work culture: the type of culture you write in capital letters.
For example, every week at our Monday group meetings, our boss asks the group if they think we have found the best friend at work. I remember feeling the need to make good friends, and to fit in quickly, well. Spoiler alert and fun fact: I’ve never been a good friend in this company.
The office was one of the most modern looking offices I’ve ever seen, fully stocked with breakfast and weekly company-paid lunch. Our group of software engineers do not have to leave the office for customer meetings. Despite all this bondage culture, looking back, I can’t say that this organization felt any different than working in any office.
At the time, I was still focused on getting enough attention to enhance my career, get more responsibility for projects, and be a part of big projects. While all the team bonding activities were excellent, they ultimately did not manage to keep me in this company for very long. I hear almost every tech company nowadays offers free meals and occasional meals, but what some colleagues say to me is that what they admire most is being able to work on pet projects and be presented to their team. It gives many employees a sense of responsibility and ownership.
Related: Is distant work taking a psychological toll on your external workers? Investigators say yes.
Work from the airport lounge
If you have seen the movie Up in the air, It’s as close as my software engineering career came to the so-called glamorous lifestyle of traveling for work. Most of the time, I was on a project where clients would fly my team and me on charter jets to their office. From here, my career started in the direction of pure engineering to consulting.
You can work in the office, you can work from home, but for me most of the time, it was working on a customer site away from the office. In my case, I packed my bags to go to the airport at 5:00 on Sunday evening, then flew about five hours across the country late Sunday evening to check-in at a remote hotel. The next morning at 9:00 am I was ready to work in the customer’s office. Work continued throughout the week, and then I took the return flight home at 10:00 on Friday night – there were no delayed or canceled flights (flight delays were frequent in winter). I had a Saturday and a half Sunday to rest, and then it started again.
This lifestyle may seem appealing from the outside, but I struggled to keep up with the pace and needed a break from the constant travel. I keep in touch with many people who travel for this type of work, and sometimes I find it difficult to sustain a lifestyle. The only thing that helps is to see your friends live the same life, which makes it normal, otherwise, very busy life.
Work with wires attached at a distance
After years of travel, what could be better than working from home? The flexibility of working hours and zero time to commute seemed very attractive, so I took a long gig as a senior engineer.
In this company, our entire team was distributed all over the country. Everyone scheduled their work early in the day and met daily through Zoom to report progress and make sure we were on track. As long as things were going well, we were left to our own devices.
One day, I got a call from my boss asking why I wasn’t at my desk. I learned that my boss used my IM presence indicator (which automatically switched to “remote” after five minutes of keyboard inactivity) to determine if I was slowing down. I like to take a long workout break in the afternoon and finish my work in the evening. Anyway, at least he didn’t go down without explaining himself first.
I learned that working from a distance is beneficial only if you trust it. Otherwise, you are chained to the desk in your home, whether you deliver the work on time or not.
Maybe my boss had a bad experience with someone in the past. Maybe he wasn’t in the habit of managing people without seeing them. Even though I worked from a distance, I felt like I had to go the extra mile to “show” that I was working, and that canceled out the benefits of working far away for me.
Related: Pros and Cons of Distance Work: Will Your Employees Adapt?
No string attached to the hybrid work
The last pivot of my career is working from a distance without any travel and no manager. I make my own schedule and remove all unnecessary interruptions. My team also works perfectly from a distance, and we go on call as needed. We are proud to be a completely distant team.
Before the epidemic, we all felt we had the option of working from a distance. During the epidemic, we began to realize that we had no choice but to work from a distance.
Most of the work I do with the team requires a lot of brainstorming, and random interactions are essential input – you tap your coworker on the shoulder and say, “Hey can you see it? Do you like it?”
These interactions are spontaneous and cannot be determined. To successfully facilitate this task, we set up a Hybrid Office experiment. Some of our employees still work remotely, and this is the nature of tech startups operating across different continents. Others have the option of working hybrid.
What I have learned from this experience is that you should use it and be open to solutions you may not have thought of or believed in before. And you can’t force your employees to like your workplace, just as you can’t force them to find the best friend at work.
You can, however, set the conditions for success and let things unfold. We’ve just started this pilot office environment, and I’m looking forward to seeing how our team responds to the hybrid work without attaching any strings. If you are considering a hybrid work environment for your team, also remember to adjust the culture and expectations in the hybrid setup.