Since the start of this pandemic, companies around the world allowed a significant chunk of their employees to work from home. Albeit remote working has been on the rise for some time now, the COVID-19 pandemic has pressed the fast-forward button on this trend.
With millions of people now doing remote work, many are waking up to the harsh realities of this alternative method, and it is not all that attractive.
Employers and employees are now grappling with the reality that the global work-from-home movement intended to maintain productivity and efficiency during the pandemic could actually diminish productivity and cause innovation to slump.
The Realities of Working From Home
At the start of the pandemic, everyone seemed to believe that working from home could guarantee a smooth operation of business practices. The truth is, however, is much more complicated than just laptops and video conferencing. The truth is working from home does not instantly increase performance or productivity.
While working from home can actually make employees better at some things, it can also cause them to become worse at others. A 2012 study beautifully highlights this! The study found that people performed “dull” tasks better in a controlled environment than they did in a less-structured remote environment.
The same study also found that when faced with a creative task, people were more productive in a remote, relaxed environment.
One can conclude that working from home has both benefits and challenges. The benefits of working from home have been championed and extolled by industry leaders, employers, and employees alike. These may include:
- Flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere.
- Cuts long commuting times and transport congestion.
- Increased productivity by employees who have a suitable environment at home with no distractions.
- Higher concentration for employees working in modern open-plan offices who get so distracted by noise and interruptions causing them to not concentrate.
- A typical employer can save costs up to $11,000 per year for every person who works remotely half of the time.
As is noted, the benefits of working from home can be significant. But what is happening today with the coronavirus crisis is completely different thanks to three factors: children, space, and privacy.
In a stable economy, these would all be non-factors, as parents would send their kids to daycare to create space and privacy to perform tasks. Now that the children are at home, it brings with it so many challenges that can decrease productivity and efficiency including:
- Managing kids: Working from home with children is a productivity disaster. It also forced parents to take on the additional job of a full-time teacher. This can cause productivity and focus to diminish.
- A nosedive in creativity: In-person collaboration is necessary for creativity and innovation. Creativity, team cohesiveness and company culture could suffer when employees are not in the office.
- Isolation and loneliness: Many employees found it difficult to unplug from office work to work from home. The clear-cut change of location and defined office hours made it tougher for them to clearly divide their personal and professional time. Due to this, many employees feel isolated, lonely, and even depressed at home and long for social company they had at work.
- Builds a health crisis: Office workers who abruptly became remote workers may experience higher stress. This stress is due to the challenges of working from home. It is not easy to locate colleagues and keep projects moving and trying to do conference calls surrounded by children and barking dogs.
A study of home workers from 15 countries found 42% of remote workers had trouble sleeping, waking up repeatedly in the night, compared to only 29% who always worked in the office. Remote working can thus interfere with your family life and cause an overwhelming amount of stress.
Despite the drawbacks, there are a few things that can help stem the productivity decline and optimize performance such as regular check-ins between managers and their teams; maintaining schedules, actively striving to separate work life from family life, and collaborating with colleagues on video calls to keep the creative juices flowing. The most crucial thing here is to work strategically and remind yourself to create a work-life balance that best suits you.
Wrapping It Up!
Lockdown measures have highlighted the value of workplace flexibility – particularly for people with kids. Yet it has also dispel the myth of remote working being so much better than office work.
As the economy slowly begins to reopen, it remains to be seen whether or not COVID-19 accelerated inevitable trends in workplace culture. Or, will employees return to their old way of working.
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About the author: Dr. Madeline Ann Lewis is the President/CEO of the Executive Women’s Success Institute and creator of the online course “Crack the Career Code: How to Lead With Confidence, Charisma, and Credibility.” Reach out to her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or website: www.exwsi.com;.