For the last few years employers and employees have been playing tug-of-war in the back-to-office debate. Employees want to work from home. Employers want employees back in the office. And the compromise is the hybrid work environment we know today. Many employees are still not happy, preferring to go into the office less than is required, or not at all. But could employees be wrong about what they want or what’s best for their job satisfaction and career success? We share some of the reasons experts are saying it might actually be good for you—the employee—to be back in the office.
Your Mental Health
Most of us are built to interact with others to some degree. The isolation caused by the pandemic had a huge impact on feelings of loneliness and overall mental health. In a 2022 global study, 72% of workers said they experienced loneliness monthly and experts claim this is not just caused by the absence of people, but rather loneliness is a result of the absence of connection. Loneliness impacts not only your mood, but can also impact your commitment to your work, your productivity, and your sense of worth. While returning to the office doesn’t automatically fix loneliness, it could help you feel connected to your team and manager and give you a sense of belonging. It is hard to replicate the in-office experience of relating to your coworkers over coffee or lunch with video calls or instant chat tools, and that experience is more valuable for your mental health than you may think.
Your Job Satisfaction
We often talk about our jobs as if going to them is punishment. We need to “get back to the grind” or we talk about the “Sunday Scaries” as we anticipate going back to work on Monday. And while for most, work is a necessity, your happiness at work does in fact matter. While doing work you actually enjoy is an important part of job satisfaction, how you do it, and who you do it with matters too. Experts claim that having work friends is essential for your happiness and sense of belonging at work.
“Culture” has remained a top priority for employees over the years when choosing a place to work and while there are a lot of things that go into creating a strong culture, tangibly it often means two things for employees: 1. Working with people you like and 2. Having a sense of shared purpose with your team. While it is not impossible to create a strong culture with a fully remote team, it is more difficult for employees to get to know one another on a personal level. A study found that fully remote workers report 33% fewer friends at work. It can also be harder to rally a team around a common goal without in-person meetings and interactions.
Your Career Advancement & Personal Growth
In-office interaction might give you more opportunities for advancement. While a good manager can and should value and respect contributions from remote employees, “it is also human nature to pay attention to what’s directly in front of us” says Forbes contributor Tracy Brower, PhD. She recommends returning to the office so that you’re building your “social capital” and are on the radar of leaders who may be thinking about promotions. It also may be easier to volunteer for career advancement-related opportunities if you’re in person in a meeting, or having a casual conversation with a manager in the hallway than if you need to unmute yourself on a video call or are working independently at home.
Working in the office can also give you the opportunity to learn new skills and exposure to the leadership or workstyle of others. Some experts also claim that going into the office helps you grow in a way working from home doesn’t: “When we’re in a social space, we expose ourselves to all kinds of wonderful, important, and interesting possibilities. When we get out there, we take on challenges and thus, grow grit and self-confidence,”says psychologist Michael Mazius, PhD.
While hybrid work has sometimes felt like a compromise that no one is happy with—employees want more time at home while employers want their employees in the office more—perhaps it’s time to think less about what you might be “losing” by giving up some time working from home, and more about what you gain by working in the office. These tangible benefits for your mental health, your job satisfaction, and your career advancement might just be worth a return to the office.