Written by Emilie Brunet on August 31, 2023
The world of work has changed drastically since COVID-19. Remote working became the norm for several years, but now 3+ years out from the start of the pandemic, companies are figuring out what to do next.
Some have decided to bring all of their employees back into the office.
Others have moved 100% online.
And others are allowing their teams to work in a hybrid model.
Our company went fully remote when the pandemic hit, and we have no plans of going back in-person.
Everyone on our team advocates for fully remote work — it truly comes with a ton of benefits. But what might be seen as an advantage to some, might not be worth the inevitable downfalls to others.
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of remote working and how they compare to in-office and hybrid work to help you determine what type of work might be best for you.
Remote working may seem like the obvious answer, but depending on your personality, your communication style and how you like to be productive, some of the so-called benefits of remote working might not actually be beneficial for you and some of the cons might make or break your decision to opt for remote working.
Work-from-home definitely is the winner in the “commute” battle. The commute for remote workers is effectively nothing (unless you count the 6 seconds it takes someone to walk from their bed to their desk).
No one enjoys spending their morning sitting in traffic.
The average Canadian employee spends approximately 24 minutes commuting to work one way — that adds up to be about 4 hours per week on commute.
That number nearly doubles, if you’re someone who takes public transportation (approximately 7h15m per week).
Working hybrid gives you two main options when it comes to your commute.
You can work for a company that’s further away from your home because you only need to commute their a few times a week.
Or you can work for a company equally as close to your home and just save time on the commute for the days you don’t go into the office.
Different companies have different policies around hybrid, but some allow for the employees to come in whenever they want, meaning you can avoid traffic by coming in later or you can choose not to go in on the bad weather days.
If you hate commuting, getting dressed up for the office and struggle with waking up early, remote working will likely be the best situation for you.
If you’re someone who likes a good drive, takes their commute as an opportunity to listen to their favourite audiobook, or simply appreciates the routine of getting dressed up for work and leaving the house daily, then you might opt for in-office work or hybrid work.
Flexibility might seems like an obvious perk to remote work.
But, in reality, that flexibility might be relatively limited depending on the company that you’re working for.
Some of the best companies allow you to work from anywhere in the world and that’s definitely the biggest advantage to working remotely (take it from someone who’s worked from a hammock in the Canary Islands 🏝️).
But every company and policy is different, “remote working” doesn’t inherently mean “work from abroad” and sometimes it doesn’t even inherently mean flexibility.
Some companies don’t allow their employees to work outside of their province, let alone outside of the country!
And some companies require their remote workers to be online and available non-stop during their work hours.
Others may require you to take a “sick day” for a doctor’s appointment as opposed to just making up those hours in the evening.
That being said, most of the time there is a certain amount of leeway to a remote working job. Whether that’s to step out for a little longer lunch and then wrap up your workday at 5:30pm instead of 5pm, or start your work day earlier so you can get to a show at 4pm.
Realistically, most companies that have remote working policies allow for a certain amount of flexibility to the where, how and what time you get your work done.
If you have to go into the office every single day, the flexibility of when and how you get your work done comes to a halt.
However, there’s a hidden advantage to that: work-life balance.
When you go into the office, most of the time, you know that your workday ends at the time that you leave the office.
However, in a remote work setting your work is always with you.
If a company doesn’t have clear guidelines on how they handle remote working availabilities, you’ll find yourself constantly being “on call” more so than you would be at the office.
Going into the office clarifies when you are working and when you’re not and gives you that space to really separate the two.
You’d think that hybrid would ultimately be the best of both worlds scenario. And it can be. You go into the office when you want, you have the flexibility to stay home when you want.
Sometimes this can feel like a huge win, but again, every company is different (maybe you’re sensing a theme by now lol).
Hybrid for Company A can mean that you have to be in the office at least 2 days a week, whereas hybrid for Company B can mean that you can come into the office whenever you want — even if that’s as little as once a month.
But in both scenarios, just like in-office work, this usually means that have to live and be working in close proximity to your place of work.
No more working in Montreal for a Vancouver-based company. Or sipping on non-alcoholic mimosas from a beach in Costa Rica.
If you need a flexible schedule because you have kids, like to travel or simply appreciate waking up 5 minutes before you have to start you workday, then remote working might be best for you.
If you don’t necessarily need a flexible schedule and prefer the routine of a 9am to 5pm clearly delineated workday, then in-office might be the winner.
If you have no plans to travel and like having occasional access to an office, then hybrid might be the way to go.
The pandemic showed us how important socializing and connection is for our mental health. While we can still socialize outside of work, socializing at work builds connections, creates empathy for our colleagues and in general increases communication across the organization.
We’d be lying if we didn’t confront the realities of communication in a remote working environment. It’s just honestly, not the same.
Unless you have intentional time for online coffee chats, water cooler hangouts and brainstorming sessions, there isn’t much opportunity for just open ended social conversations. And even when there is clearly marked time for that, nothing kills a conversations quite like Zoom fatigue does.
Not just on the socializing side of things, remote working can also make it difficult to communicate about projects, tasks or simply sharing information across teams.
You need strong communication policies and async ways to share information in a way that is efficient while simultaneously enjoyable and engaging.
You’re chatting over lunch with your colleague about an idea you have, another colleague overhears and you start discussing it further, suddenly you all have the next greatest product for your team to work on.
You are frustrated that you can’t figure out a problem, your manager overhears your frustration and helps you fix it, right then and there.
You make yourself a cup of coffee and end up chatting with your colleague few minutes, and you realize that both your kids go to the same daycare.
This type of spontaneous interaction is limited in the remote working environment. Some of the best conversations, ideas and fulfilling interactions come from being in-person and there’s no app or Zoom meeting that will replicate that.
It might feel obvious to try to combat the “lack of communication” issue in remote working by going with hybrid.
But unfortunately, when you have a team that is in multiple locations, sometimes in office, sometimes working from home, even more things can get lost in communication.
Communication guidelines and policies in a hybrid setting need to be even tighter than those in a remote work setting or things will fall through the cracks.
Yes, you can still get those spontaneous discussions in-person. But other problems arise.
Imagine this scenario:
Bob sends an email to Priya and Jill about a project they are working on. Priya mentions the email to Bob in-person during lunch and they come to a conclusion about how the project will be handled. Jill is never brought into the conversation because she’s remote and misses the whole decision-making process.
And when it comes to promotions and moving ahead in your career, who do you think is more likely to be thought of first for a promotion? The employee who comes into the office 3 times a week and chats with the manager or the employee who comes in once a month?
Hybrid comes with its own set of issues.
If you’re an extrovert, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably going to want to look for a hybrid or in-office job. Going full days without talking to anyone can be really draining if you are normally more of a social butterfly. You may find yourself less attached and invested in your work without the social stimulation.
If you’re an introvert, working from home might be your best bet. However, if you also live alone and don’t get out of the house much, then this might lead to you being isolated over time and less motivated at work. Make sure you get your social stimulation elsewhere!
Either way, if you’re interviewing for a position, ask about how they communicate across teams and within the organization, regardless of if it’s remote working, hybrid or in-office. Understand their communication policies so you can decide which ones work best for you.
We don’t think remote work is overrated. Our team loves the flexibility it provides, the fact that we don’t have to go into the office and we’re more focused at work.
That being said, we all have admitted to feeling socially isolated and wishing we could see our colleagues more often.
When finding the best option for you, make sure you ask the right questions during your job interviews.
(You might not want to ask all of these questions right away, but as you start to learn about the job you’ll have space to ask more about it!)
It’s important to take the time to really think about what kind of work environment you can thrive in and make the decision from there!
I'm the People & Culture Manager at Journey Education. I have always had a passion for writing, organization and finding creative solutions. I aim to be personable, empathetic and compassionate and believe that kindness can go along way in both business and life.
Having worked and organized with anti-capitalist, feminist and queer organizations, I strongly believe that EVERYONE deserves, not just a living wage, but a thriving wage and that it should be the priority of every business to create an inclusive, caring and diverse work environment that doesn't just ensures the work happens, but allows people to be people while the work is happening!
My approach to everything I do reflects my training in trauma-informed practices, active listening and harm reduction as well as my interest in understand the way people work, behave and exist as their full human self. I want to create safer spaces for people to explore, create and excel in a supportive environment - whether that's in life or at work.