Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.
Friendly time in the office
istock_Office-friendly_mixetto

Is WFO going to be the new WFH?

by

As surveys suggest that working from home is even more prevalent than we imagined, Philip Fisher reminds us that offices have hidden attractions.

22nd Aug 2022
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

The pandemic has changed our working practices forever. It is hard to believe that only three years ago working from home was regarded with suspicion by most accountants.

Whether justifiably or not, many were of the view that this was merely a polite way of saying that someone was taking a day off.

More sophisticated employers had begun to adopt the practice, quite often because they fancied a day out of this themselves. They then spun this out either to trusted colleagues or, in more enlightened cases, everybody but usually on a limited basis, perhaps just one day a week.

The working from home experiment

As we know, an enforced experiment in which everybody worked from home five days a week proved to many that, at least in the accountancy profession, there was a chance of getting greater productivity at lower cost by adopting the practice.

The upshot is that most big firms are now happy to allow employees to spend around half of their time working from home and the rest physically in the office.

Indeed, the success of the experiment more widely has been confirmed by the consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates. In June and July, the business management consultant carried out a survey covering nearly 50,000 workers.

Astonishingly, it discovered that the average attendance was 29%, peaking at 39% mid-week. Predictably, offices are almost empty on Fridays (13% attendance) and Mondays (19%).

Against that, the powers that be at Apple have issued an edict requiring employees to make personal appearances on Tuesdays, Thursdays and one other day of the week.

All of this has meant changes to operating norms but these have rarely been damaging, particularly the sacrifice of numerous internal meetings that wasted a great deal of time without achieving anything concrete.

It seems likely that there will be further tweaks as the new norm becomes embedded but the prospect of slave-accountants being chained to their desks all day, every day has disappeared for good.

The limitations of WFH

Having decided that working from home is a tremendous boon, the last couple of weeks might have acted as a wake-up call and persuaded many that, despite its limitations, there are some advantages to heading into an office.

If you can overcome the horrors (and cost) of commuting and accept the increased risk of catching coronavirus, which seems to have been spreading boldly through many workplaces in the last couple of months, spending the day in someone else’s bricks and mortar can be blissful.

The obvious advantages have been highlighted in numerous articles like this. Everybody is now aware that interacting with members of your team is helpful, while catching up with friends and gossip is fun. Those who work in big cities can also take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a little retail therapy in the lunch hour or on the way home.

However, we had probably all forgotten two of the biggest advantages that might tip the balance over the next six months.

First, the two recent heatwaves were unbearable in this writer’s home office whether the windows were open or closed and despite liberal doses of cold drinks.

Even the worst equipped offices are likely to have fans and it is quite possible that the majority of accountants work in buildings that are air-conditioned.

While the journey in might have been a sweaty business, enjoying a controlled 20° temperature when the tarmac on the road outside was melting at 40° must have been heavenly.

The warmth of the office

With the cost-of-living crisis exercising politicians and worrying their constituents, this winter is likely to be terrifying. In six months from now, if the predictions are correct, the average annual cost of heating our homes will exceed £4,250 by January.

Given that most of that cost will come in the dim, dark days of winter this could easily equate to something like £20-£25 each day that you work at home.

The alternative is popping into a beautifully heated office, thus saving most but not quite all of that cost since homes will need to be heated to an extent, and making your hyperactive boss happy as they watch you beavering away at those tax returns or accounts.

Perhaps WFO might soon become the new WFH?

Have you missed the novelty of the office? Can you see the office becoming more attractive?

Replies (13)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By Hugo Fair
22nd Aug 2022 22:00

Aside of the fun had in writing this article, the only takeaway seems to be towards the end where you say "in the dim, dark days of winter this could easily equate to something like £20-£25 each day that you work at home."

Obviously it depends on the size of your residence and its thermal efficiency and (most importantly) whether you share it with other people (or pets) ... BUT I would struggle to save such sums even if I switched the CH off completely during my office-based absence.
In reality you are generally advised to keep the target temp indoors closer to 19C than some people's excessive tropical environment (and to take at least a little exercise and wear more than a T-shirt in mid-winter) ... and not to let the ambient temp fall below 15C for much of the 24 hrs/day.
If you do this, then the amount of energy consumed for the 10 hours/day (or less if you prefer not to return to an ice-box after your commute) by switching off the CH for part of the day should not cost the amount you indicate as an 'extra' cost.

The reality is that energy costs *may* yet triple or the supply be rationed - and inflation *may* yet double - and the civil unrest being modelled in the back rooms of Whitehall *may* come to pass ... in which case there are bigger concerns than where your work gets done!

But in the meantime, the WFO vs WFH argument is more like gossip than the central issue ... and changing people's attitudes to energy usage/conservation more important than this.

[BTW you know I presume that it costs some people more than £20/day just to commute?]

Thanks (3)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
23rd Aug 2022 10:00

Power costs have already more than tripled in the commercial market, per our broker last week a kwh of elec was between 60p and 75p and gas circa 16-17p per kwk, these are certainly of an order of 400% or more of what we were paying (I still have gas contracts until Sept next year at 2.2893 per kwh) The only reason you are not seeing this percentage increase with domestic bills is price locks.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By JustAnotherUser
23rd Aug 2022 08:27

"carried out a survey covering nearly 50,000 workers."

I would love to see further breakdown of the results, difference based on age, distance, who has children and of what ages.

£20-£25 each day that you work at home.... think this estimates very high, but lets say its £20 a day.
Cost of public transport: £15
Time: 60 minutes each way (if everything runs on time)
Comfort: rammed into a bus/train , sweaty, smelly, awful... if they run on time and there's room
Office Coffee: Awful

Well worth it to stay at home.

Thanks (2)
Replying to JustAnotherUser:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
23rd Aug 2022 10:04

Our office coffee is good and I can get away from the rest of the family who are working from home (with a drive in the car of less than 5 mins or I can walk)

Today son at home, he always works from home now, daughter does two days a week at home and is home today, wife works from home one day a week though not today.

Thanks (1)
Replying to DJKL:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
23rd Aug 2022 11:27

Horses for courses, I guess, but you sound to be as much of a statistical outlier as I am.
In my case .. rattling around on my own in a vast house in central London, with free public transport (so long as it's after 9:00am) on tap; but where the office (used to take) a drive of 1-1.5 hours each way due to traffic not distance, and not containing all the facilities that I have here. Plus a choice of easy to get to medical establishments in an emergency (not to be sniffed at as one gets older)!

I suspect the majority of 'office workers' have an office in a city and live a fair distance away (due to city property prices) ... so commuting time & costs are both high (which are the most commonly cited reason for choosing WFH).
Although obviously those who are lucky enough to have a 1 mile walk (past green fields) each way will feel somewhat differently.

The attempt to lever home heating costs into the article was interesting, but I feel a red herring. Not only is the potential 'extra cost' of home energy a gross figure (before being offset by consequential savings) - but, as I said, if it turns into that degree of severity (or worse as you predict) then the choices will be much starker.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
23rd Aug 2022 11:35

If I had the house to myself and a decent size room to use in same I could be persuaded to work from home, catch is our spare rooms are pretty small (I have two grown up children occupying the larger rooms) .

One thing that might be a problem is the tendency to be sucked into working longer hours- leaving a physical office is a good way to stop working for the day, apart from the odd phone call when I lock up and leave that is the working day finished, when working from home that tends not to be the case.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By creamdelacream
23rd Aug 2022 14:57

"As we know, an enforced experiment in which everybody worked from home five days a week proved to many that, at least in the accountancy profession, there was a chance of getting greater productivity at lower cost by adopting the practice." - Source please

Thanks (1)
Replying to Downing Street Cat:
By Ruddles
24th Aug 2022 20:05

There is so much wrong in that post that I really don’t know where to start.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Ruddles:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
24th Aug 2022 22:51

I'd go with your gut instinct!

Thanks (2)
Replying to Downing Street Cat:
By Ruddles
25th Aug 2022 08:08

Your litter tray obviously needs emptying. Like your post, it is full of cr..

Thanks (1)
Replying to Downing Street Cat:
By Ruddles
25th Aug 2022 09:33

Talking of hallmarks …

I do wish A Web could find a way to permanently stop strays repeatedly wandering in off the street.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Downing Street Cat:
By Ruddles
25th Aug 2022 16:24

The sooner you join Frankie, the better.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By JustAnotherUser
24th Aug 2022 13:18

Whitepaper about 50,000 surveyed can be found here behind a form... https://www.advanced-workplace.com/awa/research/whitepapers/

or direct here
https://www.advanced-workplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Hybrid-ind...

Data is a small sample from 28 orgs in 13 sector, 13 countries, 79 offices and 77k people. 40% have a policy for staff to attend the office.... so guess that screws the stats... but you can see the ones with no WFO policy the average attendance is 0.9 days per week.

"• Organisations may soon need to recognise that this is the post-pandemic normal"

"Hybrid working appears to be here to stay"

Thanks (0)