I imagine that working from home for extended periods is quite new to a lot of people, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown. I enjoyed a solid year of it back when I worked remotely from Latvia. For me, it was both liberating and isolating at the same time, and while I really loved this semi-digital-nomadic lifestyle at the start, it wasn’t long before I grew an appetite for collaborating in person again.
If you asked me then, I’d say working fully remote on a more-or-less permanent basis is amazing! If you ask me now, I’d say that on balance I appreciate the time spent at the office and I would choose to work from home less frequently as a result. Pretty much all of my friendships have been established through work, and have continued to grow after we find work elsewhere. There’s immense value in that.
I think your stance on this depends entirely on your preferred style of communication, as well as the social boundaries you maintain. There’s an assumption, for example, that introverted people must love being able to work without dealing with people at the office, and I’m sure many actually do. I’m an introvert myself (as in, I spend energy doing social things and recharge by being alone), and while I can certainly cope with the situation, it is not my ideal one.
For me, it’s a matter of language and connection. I can’t read body language on a Zoom call, and I find that exhausting because I intuitively understand less from a conversation as a result. I’m similarly a very tactile person and spoken words are no replacement for a good hug or a round of drinks at the pub, or any kind of group get together. They’re more difficult to organise when there isn’t a central location you can all travel from, so distance does matter in this sense.
What is perhaps most egregious is the creeping deharmonisation of your work, and your life. Maintaining a healthy boundary is not so easy if you have to use your bedroom as your office, as opposed to your employer’s office. Having the spare room for a dedicated work space is a massive improvement, but a privilege not many can enjoy when living in small flats or house shares.
I’m not exactly writing this to share potential solutions or alternatives; I just wanted to put my take on it out there while everyone is talking about remote revolutions or offices becoming irrelevant. I think they still do serve a purpose, even if their purpose or shape begins to adapt to the new reality, and I do look forward to the day when that physical kind of reconnection becomes more readily available again.