Home Office versus Office Office

WFH vs Commute

WFH vs Commute

Dear leader of highly productive teams,  

Feeling dread about having your staff coming back into the office again after working from home for so long?

Concerned your staff will lose this uptick in productivity they have been experiencing?

Worried they’ll be more unhappy coming back to work?

Well, you should be.

There’s something you need to know.

The formula is simple, and it’s important you understand what you’re in for.

Simply put, people who are correctly wired will pursue happiness.  


You can thank a million years of brain evolution.  Give or take.

Pandemic aside, isolation aside, dealing with a busy household and trying to be productive at work aside, your people have developed an arsenal of coping mechanisms to make them happy in most moments of their day.

Let’s take a step back.  Remember, there are only eight different things that make people feel happy.

Happy Brain Chemicals

Oxytocin, Melatonin, Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, Endorphins, Dopamine, Phenylethylmine, Serotonin

People working from home have the luxury of engaging in activities that help produce these chemicals in their bodies.


(You know, the things you are doing when you don’t turn on your camera for that GoTo Meeting call?) 

Maybe you partake yourself?


They eat, drink, smoke, vape, use recreational drugs, go for walks, jog, exercise, swim, hot tub, walk the dog, read, play video games, play board games, play solitaire, solve jigsaw puzzles, solve crossword puzzles, crochet, paint, sculpt, play musical instruments, play music, burn incense, surf the web, call loved ones, do laundry, wash the dishes, run errands, run on the treadmill, shop, pick up the kids from school, drop the kids off at school, wear pj bottoms, wear bell bottoms, wear no bottoms, wear shorts, wear slippers, sit on bean bags, sit on Swiss balls, use stand up desks, look at their fish, pet their cats, play with their dogs, do their banking, dim the lights, etcetera, ad nauseam.

In mircro-doses.  

Throughout the day.

Between tasks.

Your people do a million little things that bring them happiness.

Every day.


And their productivity went up.

People want to work from home not because they are lazy.


In fact, it’s the opposite.

They want to feel accomplished.

They want to feel happy.

What will happen when they are forced to come to work?

Their coping mechanisms go away.

They will go away.

And your people will become less happy.

As leaders we know happy employees are productive employees.

As such, you should expect productivity to decrease.


People can still do some of these things.

They’ll eat.

They’ll smoke.

Some will drink.

Some will go shopping.

Some will go for walks.

Some will just go…somewhere…


The office isn’t completely devoid of happiness.

It’s just not as easy to make oneself happy at the office using coping mechanisms.

Your employees are the CEOs of their households.  They don’t need permission to turn on the essential oils air purifier, while listening to Barry Manilow, and sipping a chardonnay. 

In the office they will lose that control.

Will they resent you for it?

They sure will.

But it gets worse.

Your introverts will suffer the most.  

They are in heaven now.

They will be in complete misery and will most likely resign after a few days or weeks.

Or worse.

They’ll stay.

Caspar David Friedrich's "Wanderer above the sea of fog"
Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the sea of fog”

Your extroverts will become your greatest time bandits as they “collaborate” every single chance they get.

There will be time bandits everywhere.

And they will crush your productivity.

Productivity will take a nose dive for your “funny” employees. 

People will seek out the funny people for a good laugh and a dose endorphins.

Productivity will decrease for your “attractive” employees.

People will seek them out for an oxytocin boost.

Productivity will suffer for those “cheerleaders” on your teams.

People will seek them out to get a serotonin kick.

So that funny, handsome, morale booster will be exhausted every day for a while.


(I’m not even going to get into what the commute is going to do to your people physically, mentally, and emotionally.)

As a good leader you can help mitigate some of the unhappiness.

But know this.

Happiness is a real human need and you’re up against a million years of brain evolution.  Give or take.


What can you do?

Look at the data.

Measure everything.

Try your best to allow them to control their happiness at the office.

But know you’ll never be able to compare to what they have now.

If productivity turns south, reverse course and get your people where they need to be.

Then again.

If things are going really well.

If productivity is at the highest it’s ever been.

If you are having a banner year.


It ain’t broke.

Don’t fix it.

It’s your team.

It’s your career.

Fight like hell to protect them both.