Working from home sometimes seems like a betrayal of all that is good about the office. On top of worrying about being bored at a perpetual desk, workers often don’t get enough personal time.
Still, the days when secretaries built businesses by maintaining confidential company information are long gone. Today’s executive using home electronics and technology feel comfortable joining colleagues in the conference room after a long day on the job.
Jim Pagliano, who helped upgrade U.S. government cybersecurity systems at home for seven years before returning to the office, agrees that the culture is changing.
“I think it’s gotten more efficient. I think that technology has played a big role in that. In the old days, there was a lot of customization and catering around who had home help, and I don’t think technology allows that as much as it did, and people are probably more collaborative now,” he says.
But Pagliano, 52, who is now chief information officer for the city of New York, warns that email can actually be a deterrent to collaboration. Employees feel like there’s too much communication, and feeling constantly connected to the office can create an isolation.
I was 18 years old, and I had just returned from a two-year stretch in the Air Force in Europe. I lived on my own, and it was an adjustment. I’m not alone, either. Research has shown that (as long as) people feel competent and they feel heard, people will make decisions, even if it’s in email. If you get to the point where they aren’t, that’s when the conflict starts. But that can’t be addressed through email. You need to go face-to-face.
David Roach, a 45-year-old project manager for a marketing firm who took a four-year leave from work to go back to college, disagrees with the idea that the office can’t be improved. Roach has been back at work for three years.
“I’ve learned a lot of communication techniques over the years, but I definitely think in the new age we have to know how to walk and chew gum at the same time. I don’t think there’s an ‘either-or’ scenario,” he says.