It’s a new day for the way we work, and for most people, that means the ability to work from home, at least a few days a week. It’s a wonderful thing; after all, who doesn’t enjoy avoiding commutes, walking their dog during lunch, or working in their yoga pants all day? Additionally, many workers with disabilities have found themselves in a more comfortable position, with the ability to avoid an uncomfortable commute and the ability to create a welcoming home office.

For those who can, getting out of the house can be a welcome change of pace and can have a positive effect on everything from work-life fulfillment to motivation and career growth. The key is balance and the right combination of time in the office and time at home.

Since many employers offer the hybrid work option, it’s wise to consider when you might want to work from home and when you might want to commute to the office. Being intentional will add to your happiness, that’s for sure. So when should you go to the office? Here are some considerations to take into account.

working style

One of the challenges of working from home is feeling less stimulated to create, imagine, or think in unexpected ways. Your environment is the same every day, and this predictability can keep you from feeling inspired.

Research from Maastricht University and Erasmus University found that when performing routine tasks, working from home alone can be just fine. But when your work is more complex or you face more pressure or you need a lot of speed to get it done, you’d better be in the office, working with others. You will benefit from the energy and teamwork of the people around you.

You are usually more creative when you can put together various ideas and connect the dots in original ways. Go to the office when you need the stimulation of a different place, diverse people, and the energy that can help you innovate and solve problems in new ways.

Motivation levels

If your home office is a quiet place with lots of solitude, this can be nurturing. But too much of a good thing can also make you tired or demotivated. Calling a Netflix binge or pulling a mid-afternoon nap can hurt your efficiency and self-esteem.

In these cases, going to the office may be just the boost you need. Research in the Journal of Labor Economics found that performance had ripple effects. The four-year study found that when individuals performed better, overall teams performed better too: teammates had a strong influence on everyone’s productivity. It’s the power of emotional contagion – the phenomenon in which people are inspired by the energy of the crowd and by being surrounded by others who work hard and perform well.

Additionally, a study by the Association for Psychological Science found that when people were engaged, they also tended to be more satisfied and productive. These factors tended to reinforce each other – when people were happy with their jobs, they in turn tended to be more engaged and productive. When they were more productive, they also tended to be more engaged and satisfied. Being in person with colleagues can have a positive effect on the desire to dive in, engage and fully participate, as you benefit from the spirit of people and the work that is happening around you.

career stage

In order to be successful in your career, you will need to grow your network and nurture your social capital with those you may not work as closely with. New opportunities are more likely to emerge from your secondary or tertiary networks, not your main network. This is because the people furthest from your circle usually have access to information about growth prospects that you don’t.

The best way to build relationships and get to know people is face to face. Of course, going virtual works too, but when you’re in the office, you can meet the co-worker you wouldn’t normally see or have coffee with an executive mentor in a more casual way. Additionally, you will benefit from the familiarity effect in which people tend to remember who they see and interact with more frequently. So go to the office when you want to connect with people and learn from those you don’t see as naturally in your daily work, and when you want to be more visible.

Personal well-being

With more working from home, people are experiencing a decline in well-being and an increase in feelings of social isolation, and these issues have been on the rise in recent years. In a study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, people reported having problems with mental health, managing work-life boundaries, decision-making, stress, burnout, loneliness, and productivity. Working from home isn’t the only variable driving these statistics, but it’s a major contributor, according to the research.

Getting out of the house and spending time with co-workers can be restorative. Escaping the monotony of your home can disrupt your routines in a positive way and bring welcome relief. Even for introverts, the ability to work where there’s the hum of background noise or the energy of others in the space can be helpful in meeting (even minimal) social needs.

Leaving home can also foster constructive boundaries. When your work is always from home, it can encroach on your life and it can be hard to let go. If your laptop is on your kitchen island, you may need to send one more email or follow up on one more task, with work always on your mind.

In the same way, pressures and distractions from home can also get in the way of work. Your kids are playing nearby while you’re trying to finish a high-pressure work project, or the doorbell is ringing while you’re presenting online. When you go to the office, you can reinforce the boundary between work and home and create a healthy distance between everyone.

Importance of Relationship Building

Another reason to go to the office is to build relationships with co-workers. Virtual meetings are great, but there’s nothing like being in the trenches together, rolling up your sleeves and working on a project face-to-face. And there are benefits to having coffee between meetings where you can reconnect with a colleague informally.

Also, if you have a sensitive issue to resolve with someone, being face-to-face can help. Conflict is normal in any relationship, and working relationships are no exception. If you have a challenge with someone, going to the office to connect, read body language, listen, empathize, and respond can make a difficult conversation a little easier.

The best part about hybrid is having the ability to work from both home and the office, and you can benefit from being intentional about where you work. Choose the location that best suits you, your team and your efficiency. When you get the most out of work both at home and in the office, you can enhance the fulfillment you feel in both your work and your life.


Tracy Brower is a sociologist specializing in happiness and fulfillment at work and in personal life. She works at Steelcase, and is the author of two books, Secrets to happiness at work and Bring life to work by bringing life to work.