May 12, 2021

What’s the Perfect Number of Days to Work from Home?

From The Atlantic:

If you’ve been able to work from home, you’ve had an enormous privilege. But devoid of choice and novelty, remote work has lost some of its romance for office workers who previously dreamed of ending their commute. …

What would be best for most office workers—and what’s most likely to happen for many of them—is something between the extremes of old-school office work and digital nomadism. … I’m here to argue for a particular baseline: three days in the office, and two at home.

Working from home also gives you more control of marginal time in the workday itself. At the office, if you need a break from your computer, that might mean going to stand in line to buy a salad or yet another coffee. At home, it could be washing dishes or folding laundry or doing a grocery run—stuff that would otherwise eat away at personal time. …  Working from home can also open up new choices about where to live; even if you’re commuting two or three days a week, you might be able to opt for a more affordable neighborhood, or a town that offers more outdoorsy activities that’s farther away from the office.

But working from home is also not what most people say they want to be doing full-time in the near future. …  Many people benefit from working and living in separate places. Commutes can have upsides. Last year, I was somewhat embarrassed to realize that I was among the half of American office workers who missed mine; the time I used to spend walking and riding the train every morning provided a psychological in-between, when all I needed to do was let my brain transition into work mode while I listened to a podcast.

Once you’re actually at work, seeing others there can be valuable, even if you have a robust outside social life. …  That effect is particularly strong for early-career workers, who need opportunities to learn from older colleagues, network with people in their industry, and figure out the internal politics of their workplace. …

By letting people choose their own office adventures, employees can gain back some of what’s sorely missing in American work culture: self-determination. Need to plow through a task that will take you a full day? Stay home. Need to talk through some plans with a few co-workers? Everyone goes in. Kid got the sniffles? Expecting a delivery? Have dinner plans near the office? Do what you need to do to manage your life. Being constantly forced to ask permission to have needs outside your employer’s Q3 goals is humiliating and infantilizing. That was true before the pandemic, but it’s perhaps never been as clear as it is after a year in which many employers expected workers not to miss a beat during a global disaster unlike anything in the past century. …

We’re in a rare moment when American office workers are likely to have significant leverage over their working conditions—in a recent survey, well over half of middle-income workers said they were considering switching jobs this year, and for most of them, remote flexibility would be a factor. Companies that don’t want to spend a fortune replenishing their ranks in a hot labor market will need to make concessions. They can start with two days a week.


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  1. Well written.

    Yes 2 might be right for some, or 3 or even 5 for others who have a small home, noisy kids or many distractions at home.

    It also depends on your personality type and career status or aspiration.

    One size does not fit all.

    I worked from home since 1998, as soon as IBM come out with laptops and fast modems that beeped these high pitched sounds but I was already quite advanced then in my career and had a decent network, and was flying around a lot anyway.

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