The outbreak of the coronavirus has created disruptions for millions of people, from staying indoors, to travel restrictions, health scares and stock market havoc. Among these effects is adapting to working from home.
Companies have switched from not advocating remote work, to the complete opposite – some even using it as a marketing opportunity to position themselves as the “first large company to operate entirely remotely”.
However, research has found that the ideal work-from-home amount is one and a half days per week – allowing participation in team collaboration and office culture as well as time for deep, focused work.
Some employees find remote work a fantastic new experience, however others have the opposite experience, with potentially dangerous long-term effects:
1) Office Equipment and In-Person Guidance is Essential for Getting the Job Done
Even in jobs where working from home is possible, it cannot be assumed that professionals have access to and can afford the necessary equipment such as monitors, internet, computers, keyboards, and desk chairs.
2) Working from Home is Productive Now; Exhausting in the Long Term
Online video tools have made it possible for teams to stay in contact remotely. Studies have shown that spending the same amount of time on online video calls as one would in an in-person meeting is exponentially more exhausting.
For most employees, working from home caused a boost in productivity. Employees are reported to be taking shorter breaks, fewer sick days, and almost no vacation days – surging the amount of work being done. This is a great outcome for managers and C-Suite but concerning for workers trying to achieve a work-life balance.
Working in isolation can be lonely and not taking enough breaks (as well as time to move around) can lead to burn-out - ending any productivity that was rising completely and mentally exhausted employees.
3) A Lack of In-Person Communication is Un-Human
Executives, managers, team leaders, and employees understand that communication in the workplace is key for employee satisfaction and getting work done.
Getting work done online or over the phone is possible but restricts team bonding and leadership. Being around other people enables expression of empathy and collaboration. These are core human aspects and skills that cannot be automated and are responsible for meaningful contact that is missing when working from home.
The element of social interaction is really important; not just in work teams but as humans. Not everybody has the opportunity to be social at home: some employees live alone, have limited space, multiple distractions, or even, safety at home.
So, what is the answer to working from home in the future?
Most companies are trying to give workers flexibility - making coming into the office optional, except when necessary. People want to work the way that feels best to them: some at a desk in an office around team members, others drift around like nomads, some have beautiful home offices that work for them.
All of these options are important. Have a rational mindset about working from home - it doesn’t work for everyone.
Companies should experiment with workspaces and what encourages creativity and productivity. For example, companies with micro-kitchens, free snacks, game zones or rest areas encourage creativity and productivity in moments of “distraction” or rest.
It’s all about balance – some workers more productive and working from home and others struggle to work so isolated.