Are You Ready to Return to The Office?

return to the office

Are you one of the lucky workers who transitioned to WFH last year? Covid spread like wildfire and WFH suddenly became a necessity. Millions of people set up home offices and they were very productive. Mrs. RB40 was one of these workers. She thought she would hate working from home since she never did it before, but she loved it. From what I heard on the news, most workers like WFH much better than going to the office.

This summer, the pandemic began to subside and many employers started to plan for bringing workers back to the fold. Unfortunately, the delta variant caused a big flare-up in the United States and these plans were put on hold. However, it seems like things are getting better again. Most workplaces have a vaccine mandate so the office should be a safer place. Whether you like it or not, returning to the office is imminent.

Today, we’ll look at the advantages of working from home. Workers have a lot more power this year. If you love working from home, you might be able to fight for it or even get a new job where WFH is acceptable. Is the benefit of WFH enough to go through the trouble?

Benefit of WFH

Surprisingly, Mrs. RB40 loves working from home. She didn’t think she would be effective at home, but she adapted and became very productive. She completed a lot of backlogged projects because she was able to focus on them. Now, she doesn’t want to go to the office anymore. Here are the reasons why she enjoys working from home.

No commute

In previous years, Mrs. RB40 commuted to work via public transportation. She either took the bus or light rail. The commute took about 40 minutes so it isn’t too long. Her employer issued annual passes for public transportation so the commute is free. She liked public transportation because she didn’t have to drive and deal with rush hour traffic.

There were downsides to taking public transportation too. We live in Portland. Our winters are cold, wet, and dark. It wasn’t pleasant to wait for the bus in this weather. Also, Mrs. RB40 is a weirdo magnet. Inevitably, strange people sit next to her and tell her all about their problems. She told me about these incidents many times. Most were harmless (except for the one guy who leaned over to pet her shoes and then tried to block her from getting out of her seat), but she just wanted to sit by herself, quietly decompressing after working all day.

Anyway, commuting is no fun. Working from home eliminated that unpleasantness and gave her back over 1 hour every day. This is one of the biggest benefits of WFH.

Improved work-life balance

Another huge benefit of working from home is being able to spend more time with the family. Now, she spends a lot more quality time with RB40Jr and I. It’s been great. She can take breaks throughout the workday and talk to us. Also, she can throw clothes in the laundry, take a quick breather in the garden, or go for a quick walk. When she was at work, she knew she should take breaks, but she rarely came downstairs to step outside. Working from home is a lot more flexible than working in the office.

We really enjoy having her at home too. The family feels more complete with her at home more. Previously, she didn’t have much time to spend with the family because she would leave before the rest of us and come home much later than us. All she had time to do was clean up the dishes (I cook dinner on weekdays), read to RB40Jr, and go to sleep. She is much happier with WFH.

Flexible meals

Another nice benefit is the ability to make her own meals and eat whenever she wants. When she worked in the office, she’d pack a sandwich or eat out. She likes sandwiches, but they get pretty boring. When she ate out, the portion size was always too big. Now, she can make a hot lunch or sneak out for a nice lunch break with her hubby.

We live in a vibrant walkable neighborhood with a ton of restaurants. We’ve been here two years and there are still many restaurants we haven’t tried yet. Working from home enables us to explore our neighborhood more. I don’t eat out by myself so it’s been good for me too.

Going back to the office

Working from home has been great for our family, but Mrs. RB40 will have to go back to the office soon. Fortunately, her employer is considerate enough to their employee some choices. Here they are.

Remote work – don’t go into the office at all and give up office space.

Telework – go into the office at least 2 days/week. If less, then hot desk or hoteling option.

Office work – Back to work at the office full time as usual.

Mrs. RB40 plans to take the middle option and go to work about 2 or 3 days per week. She facilitates classes so she wants to have access to her full computer setup, which we won’t be able to create at home. I think this is a great balance for our family. She’s really fortunate that her employer is flexible. Some of her coworkers are done with WFH and will go back to the office full time. Others will most likely look at teleworking. It’s nice to have more options.

How about you? Do you like working from home? Or would you rather go back to the office?

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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33 thoughts on “Are You Ready to Return to The Office?”

  1. My company sent most of us home last March and even when we are allowed back, I will work mostly from home. I love it as I was mostly on conference calls all day anyway. Now I get an hour back from commuting and get more sleep and less stress.

    Reply
  2. 2020 was a rough year for the whole world, and it changed so much, the way we work, the way we do business, the trend towards digitalization got an additional huge boost.
    A lot of things got more flexible and I have to say that I liked home-office. So much more effective and efficient. But I know that employers don’t like to see the advantages. I guess to some extent it’s about having control over employees. But home-office is here to stay, at least to some degree. Everything got more flexible. And many people saw that they cannot rely on their jobs etc. Many for instance had to earn money as freelancer, they were forced to make money online etc. And they saw that it worked. My guess is that these experiences also let people look differently at their jobs.
    As for me, I want to integrate at least one or two home-office days per week. The advantages are just too obvious for me (no commuting, more focused meetings etc.).
    Cheers

    Reply
  3. For me, working from home has always been a good option—financially, and mentally. I last worked full-time in an office around 2011 or 2012.

    At the time, I started negotiating for remote workdays. I managed to add nearly every Friday and often another random weekday to my schedule as work from home days. On top of that, I’d get into the office fairly late (9:00-9:30 AM) and leave pretty early (4:00 PM), but agreed to do remote work for another hour at home to keep pace with my team. I had a similar setup as Mrs. RB40—my employer covered commuting expenses and worked with me to provide the right hardware/desk setup I needed. I took the Metro (work was in Washington D.C.) about 20 minutes each way plus a short walk. Delayed start and early leave let me avoid the times when the Metro was packed.

    I ended up with a solid year of nearly ideal mixed office and WFH schedule. I really enjoyed a lot of it! Still, it wasn’t enough to keep me from just feeling like my time could be better spent than doing the work I was doing.

    For the last handful of years and up until FI in 2018, I’ve done 99% work from home. Very seldom I’ve traveled to meet clients for the agency I started. I’ve done well at home and never really felt lonely—like you, it helps to be in a walkable area with interesting things and places nearby.

    I think that the pandemic has offered folks a great opportunity to try out the whole remote work thing. They might not want to let it go. But, employers do hold some cards. We’ll see how many employees get dragged back in.

    Reply
  4. I worked remotely two days a week for six years before the pandemic. I was a test case and did my best to have it work well – always answering on the first ring unless I was on another call, calling back immediately and telling whoever called (if internal) who I had been talking to, making sure I had no background noise when on a call. I found the hybrid model most productive, saving quiet tasks for home work, (and I loved being away from office yelling and screaming) but communication with coworkers was much better when I was in the office. People asked me questions they never would have asked had I been remote. And there’s no substitute for in person client meetings.
    But I don’t find everyone has that work ethic. I early retired March 1, 2020, unaware a pandemic was upon us. I now see, walking or at the store, people working on their phones while shopping, walking, or sitting on a bench. I can’t see how that’s as productive.
    I may work again. I’m sort of ready for something, but in no way want full time with no vacations again, and I really don’t want to sit. Sitting for 34 years was incredibly unhealthy. Being around mean people 10 hours a day was unhealthy. I hope this new employment climate leads to people finding more healthy situations. If I were at a job and they made me go in 5 days a week, I’d change jobs for sure.

    Reply
  5. I have mixed feelings about WFH.

    I’ve been WFH the whole time since March 2020. I didn’t used to like WFH at all before this but I’m now used to it and appreciate it better. I do like the time saved by not having to commute and the convenience of being able to do laundry or whatever in the middle of the day. I don’t think my productivity has really gone up or down while WFH vs going to the office.

    Couple things that I do miss about going into the office are the routine and the social interaction / impetus to get out of the house.

    I prefer to keep my work and home sperate and WFH blurs that line and makes it harder to have a clear separation. Driving to work and driving home plus working in an office helped keep work physically and clearly seperated. When WFH I still try and keep a regular 8 hour day and routine, but simply being here blurs the line and I think I’d prefer the clear sepearation that I get by physically going to the office.

    I’m normally a homebody and I will stay home out of preference. So WFH and the pandemic has made it worse so that I’m closer to ‘hermit’ category. Work was one thing that got me out of the house on pretty a regular basis. It forced me to be around others and forced me socialize to some degree. I don’t get that WFH. We still have meetings and conf. calls but its not the same as being in the building in person.

    So add it all up and I don’t know..

    Reply
  6. Having said what I did in my first comment, I have this to add:

    I wouldn’t consider for a nanosecond going back to work in a regular office for an Engineering company even if I was offered $1 Billion to do this for one year.,

    My peace of mine and happiness are much too important.

    I already am prosperous enough to live better financially than 95 of people my age. Moreover, I have attained the freedom to get up in the morning when I want to get up, go to sleep when I want to get up, and in the interval, work and play at the things I want to work and play at — all at my own pace!

    Reply
    • For $1 billion you’d have enough to hire someone to get plastic surgery to make them look exactly like you and do the job for you and probably have $900 million+ left over. 🙂

      Reply
  7. I have a very short commute and flexible workplace, so I don’t mind working in the office, and slightly prefer it. But, I do like to be able to take care of minor stuff during the work day, and i like to eat/cook at home. (I used to go home for lunch anyway, to walk our dog.)

    I’m going in for about 3 half-days a week right now, and will probably increase that over time to 3-4 full days. Right now, when I go in, I’m mostly in my office doing Zoom meetings, so it doesn’t seem worth it. Once face-to-face meetings are the norm again, I’ll be there more.

    If I had a 30+ minute commute, I’d definitely value WFH extremely highly.

    Reply
  8. I’ve been work from home for about 3. years. I find it unlikely if I stay in my current role I’ll ever go back to the office. That being said I’m considering a job change early next year. One of the considerations there are if it will mean I have to go back to an office. We shall see.

    Reply
  9. This pandemic certainly was a wake-up call for employees and businesses alike on how so many people can actually work from home nowadays. It can save businesses a ton of money too by not needing huge amounts of office space.

    It seems like we’ll likely see a hybrid work model evolve where many companies will have smaller offices and employees might just “reserve” a cubicle or desk a couple of days a week when they want to come in. That would be a welcome change needed in the corporate world.

    If I was still working though, I’d be content working from home full-time. Might not be ideal for everyone, but I would prefer that anyday.

    Reply
    • The hybrid model sounds good to me too. Why not save some money where you can?
      However, I think the managers will want people to come in. They can exert power over the employees more in person.
      Well, I don’t know. Let’s see how it goes.

      Reply
  10. Joe, what do you think about looking for a job again given we can all work from home nowadays?

    Going back to work at some thing I’ve been considering since I have to commute every day to pick up and drop off and drop off and pick up my son at school. So I figure, I might as well go sit in an office for six hours a day and make money and then come home. It seems more efficient.

    I’ll get my writing done before 8:30 AM, so Work wouldn’t impede Financial Samurai. What do you think?

    If you could make over $300,000 a year working 30 hours a week at a job, would you?

    Reply
    • For me, no way. I love my life right now. I don’t want to go back.
      You’ll probably do well, though. You’re more social and you probably can dictate the term of employment.
      Might be a good move for you. You already have a nanny so why not?

      Reply
  11. It’s funny, I used to always ask for remote option, but they would say we ‘need’ you in the office. I would say, no, you don’t need me in the office, you ‘want’ me in the office. Now, due to the pandemic everything is WFH.

    I love it. It allows me to take multiple contract gigs (3-4 simultaneously) whereas before, I really could only do one at a time, due to the office requirement

    Reply
    • That’s great! I don’t know why they would insist that everyone go back to the office. The company would save so much money if they can downsize.
      Oh yeah, I forgot. Managers need to feel busy too…

      Reply
  12. My company closed their local office in April 2016. We were offered a reasonable severance package, or the opportunity to move to Philadelphia with a one-time $10k relocation allowance, or full-time telework. We love our home and my wife makes more than I do; I chose door #3.

    The last five and a half years have been so so good to me. Like your wife, Joe, I often appreciated the 40m metrobus commute as time to decompress… but I can also decompress while going for a jog or sleeping in or preparing myself a tasty breakfast. It’s wonderful to be able to run a twenty-minute errand at 11am rather than a fifty-minute errand at 5pm when everyone else is trying to do the same thing. When the office closed we were allowed to take almost anything we wanted with us, so I lucked into a free multi-monitor setup and printer/copier/scanner and Aeron chair. And our dog LOVES having me around all the time.

    Forget the office! If an opportunity comes up I’d consider a job near Capitol Hill (15m away by commuter rail) or the local university (a mile and a half up the road) but otherwise I’m happy to work here until I FIRE.

    Reply
  13. The guy whose office is next to mine doesn’t believe in masks and loves to talk. He also told a student to turn me into the dean’s office for saying that you can’t “both sides” everything in politics. So.. not going in until my daughter is fully vaccinated. Possibly avoiding it entirely.

    Reply
  14. My pandemic company switched back to in-person (no wfh options) last summer (2020). Since management was of the attitude that the virus was made up there were essentially no required rules. It was like business as usual.
    I found a new job that is one hundred percent wfh. It had been 100% in office but the boss realized that putting a bunch of engineers in one large office to work on individual projects wasn’t as productive. So we are all now wfh permanently. I love it. I’ve done versions of wfh in the past, but typically it was a hybrid of a couple of days in person while the others days were home. I do prefer going in every now and then but on those days I’m not productive at all. Everyone wants to catch up. Now we do it on the phone or email and I can still work.
    I feel like most offices can do mostly wfh, just lazy management doesn’t allow it because they are the ones that wouldn’t work if given the wfh opportunity. And those people should have to be in office being babysat.

    Hybrid options seems to be the best of both worlds. Let the introverts have our solitude at home some days. Let the extroverts have their social activities in the office some days.

    Reply
  15. My wife was doing telework before COVID (2 days in the office a week), so it wasn’t a big change for us. It was great to have her at home full-time for the same reasons you pointed out. However, sometimes it got annoying, because there were times when she’s 10 feet away, but unable to answer a simple question necessary to finish some kind of family task. Or she’ll have earbuds in and start talking and I don’t know if it’s to me or a call she’s on. I’ve had whole conversations with myself thinking she was talking to me – LOL.

    I think it’s good to have some time apart. I’d like to spend more time at the library once the dog-sitting season dies down (if it ever does).

    Reply
  16. It’s been years since I worked in an office, but I always liked WFH more than going into the office.

    Not having to commute saves soooo much time it’s not even funny. It’s like suddenly having your life back again. Or at least 2-4 hours per day depending on your commute time.

    It’s hard to imagine why someone would want to go back to the office full-time and actually give-up all those extra hours.

    Maybe working in an office is a social outlet for some people who crave those kind of in-person social interactions?

    I think you’ll see a lot of people trying out the hybrid option if it’s available to them. This seems to be a “best of both worlds” option for a great many people.

    Reply
    • When I was an engineer, I never liked working from home because I couldn’t get anything done. There are too many distractions and I couldn’t get into it. Usually, it was just a day or two of WFH, though. If it was longer, I’d probably be able to adapt.

      Reply
  17. Both my kids were full time working from home during Covid and neither liked it that much. In particular, they missed the social side of being at the workplace. I think it depends on what type of personality you are and maybe also what stage of life you are at. Also, what type of home you have, as that can make a big difference if you only have a small space and are not able to arrange a good work space.
    In the same way as financial independence gives us choices, I think the WFH situation does the same. It’s giving more people the choice of whether to work from the traditional workplace, from home, some other remote place, or a combination of all of these. I think that added flexibility is a good thing.

    Reply
  18. As for me, I have been self-employed for over 30 years. I have never really liked working at home. I get stir crazy. I like being around people and people watching.

    That’s one of the reasons that I was one of the first people to get a laptop. I could work in coffee bars like Starbucks where I could be much more productive and creative. Indeed, I was one of the first digital nomads.

    A funny story here. An article was written about me by a reporter in the Edmonton Journal about how I published my own books and used my half-duplex as both my office and a place to store up to 18,000 copies of my books. Then the City of Edmonton sent me a tax bill for around $500 a year for running a home office. I contacted one of the workers and got him to reduce it to around $145 a year. I paid that for around 2 to 3 years. For the last tax bill I got, I sent it back to them and told them that my office was now where my laptop happened to be, particularly several Starbucks locations. I said that they should forward the bill to Starbucks. I never heard from them again.

    I am happy now that things have opened up again quite a bit and that I able to work in coffee bars like Blenz in Vancouver. There are even five Breka Bakery & Cafe locations in Vancouver that are open 24 hours a day so that I can work there until 3 or 4 AM and then go to my hotel suite to sleep. In Edmonton, one of the coffee bars called Block 1912 is now open until 11 PM on weekdays and until 12 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. That is where I spend most of my time with my laptop, creating my next two new books, which I hope will become “New York Times” bestsellers. Yeah for coffee bars, particularly those that stay open 24 hours a day.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing. Usually, I can work anywhere as long as it isn’t too noisy. Once I get into the flow, I could work.
      The tough part is getting into the flow. There are a lot of distractions in a coffee shop.
      Nice move with the tax office!

      Reply

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