Since March 2020 working from home has been the new normal for many employees. Whilst it may have taken a while to adjust, most companies are now fully aligned to the new way of working and considering some of the advantages it's easy to see why. It allows you to save money as there is no need to commute into the office. This then presents new job opportunities as you are no longer restricted by your location. Additionally, it promotes a healthier work/life balance; the time saved from commuting can be devoted to family or friends, and most companies offer more flexible working hours to fit around other responsibilities.
There are benefits for employers too; you have access to a broader pool of candidates as you do not need to rely on them living close by, and it enables you to expand your team without the added cost of a larger office space.
However, as time goes on it is becoming more apparent that WFH is not suitable for everybody, and that it often robs you of the many aspects that make working life enjoyable. Although beneficial for some, managers are increasingly noticing a lack of motivation in their remote staff. As well as this, loneliness and isolation are the two main concerns remote workers express.
Lack of Social Interaction
The most harmful disadvantage of WFH is that we lose out on the social element of office working. The casual conversations, small talk, and office chatter that take up tiny parts of our day are actually vital for human connection. Being in the office means that, overtime, true friendships are developed with your co workers, and we feel emotionally connected at work. Even from a professional viewpoint, it is often easier to brainstorm or bounce ideas off each other in person rather than on a video call.
Socialising at work contributes positively to our mindset and there is no adequate replacement. Whilst some companies implement certain strategies to try and replicate it – purposely leaving time at the start of each online meeting for small talk or encouraging employees to use zoom or teams to chat over their lunch break – nothing replaces the face to face conversations and social interactions that many of us, unknowingly, relied on our job for. Although the idea of remote working might have once seemed attractive, the subsequent social isolation is an unexpected reality for many of us.
Employee burnout is another consequence from the rise in working from home. As mentioned, the flexible hours often involved with home working is one of the main attractions to employees, however it can also be the most detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing. The structure we follow when going into the office can be massively beneficial when organising our own routines. Our office hours always stay the same, and the reliability of that schedule can be comforting.
Woking from home often gives employees the opportunity to plan their days how they like, providing the work gets done. But this isn’t always helpful. Some may forget to clock out and find it hard to distinguish between ‘work life’ and ‘home life’ (being in the same physical environment for both only further blurs that line). In addition, the temptation to overwork is high. Without setting yourself clear boundaries it is too easy to work long hours and skip breaks, and as you are always ‘digitally available’ you may often take on extra work that you cannot handle.
Whilst the company, industry, and personal circumstances of staff will all shape how successful WFH is for you, employers must take into account the mental health impact of continued home working. If the option is available to you, hybrid working may be the best way forward for you and your team. It allows your staff to retain the social interactions and friendships built in the office, whilst also promoting a better work life balance and improved commuting options.