The last two years, I’ve worked a full-time job predominantly from a home office. I love working from home, as I wrote about in a previous post, The Benefits of Working from Home. But for the 10+ years prior to that, I worked in an office. So I thought I’d be fair and write about some of the benefits of working in an office.
Bounce Ideas Off Other People
I’ve found when I’m in an office environment, it’s a little easier to bring up new ideas with colleagues. The office is a social place, and informal conversations are common. You can take those opportunities to run new ideas by your colleagues.
Phone and email are still great ways to collaborate though. After all, people who work in the same office often email or call each other rather than speaking in person. And I’ve always worked at companies with multiple offices around the world. If I need to collaborate with someone who works in another office, I just contact them in whatever way makes the most sense. So there are advantages of being in the same location, but I think it’s a bit over-romanticized.
Also, just because you are physically present in an office with other people doesn’t mean you will be an effective collaborator. You need to seek out fruitful conversations. And there are downsides to being physically present — it makes it easier for well-meaning people to pull you into an unproductive conversation.
Ultimately I think effective collaboration is really about your mindset — if you want to collaborate, you’ll do it, whether it gets done in person, over the phone, or email, or any other way, or through a combination of methods.
Of course, there are limits. Sometimes, you have to be there in person. If you’re a Hollywood actor, you’ll probably need to show up to the office if you want to keep your job. But for many people, working from home is fine.
Stay in the Loop on Important Matters
I do find visiting the office makes it easier to stay informed about what’s going on at my company. Again, the office is a social place, so you’re bound to pick up things as you talk to people. Of course, you also learn things over the phone and email, but not as easily.
As usual, there’s a downside to that. “Important” is a relative term. What’s important to someone else might not be so important to you (and vice-versa). If people are always popping by with important or urgent problems that aren’t really that important or urgent, it’s difficult to focus. If your specialty requires deep concentration, it’s sometimes more difficult to do that in an office.
Face Time with Colleagues
It’s easier to maintain relationships with people when you interact with them frequently. If you work with someone all the time, you’ll probably be able to maintain a strong relationship with them even if you’re working from home and communicating mostly via phone and email.
However if you’re working in an office, you’ll likely see a greater variety of people, beyond those you would normally work closely with. It’s much easier to develop relationships with these people if you’re seeing them face-to-face around the office. This can be good for your career as well as for your sanity.
See the previous post — The Benefits of Working from Home.