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Why Working From Home Doesn’t Work For Everyone

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Why Working From Home Doesn’t Work For Everyone

Despite the rumbling of the second wave of COVID-19, restrictions are still to lift, and some sense of normality has resumed. For some, this means there is potential to return to working from the office. While some businesses have told employees that working from home will continue indefinitely, for the time being, others are putting the decision in the hands of their staff.

Whichever option you are facing, it’s likely that working from home is now firmly on the agenda, but with a little more flexibility and freedom. The positive here is that coronavirus forced employers to offer that long-overdue work flexibility that a 2020 workforce should experience. The virtual office is now well-established with Zoom reporting that its number of corporate subscribers has increased by 350%.

But for some, working from home isn’t the idyllic set-up that we quite envisioned. Whether it’s the lack of ability to separate and switch off, the questionable office furniture and impending posture problems or the constant harassment from housemates little and large, working from home can become a barrier to productivity for some.

Creative and innovative thinking can suffer

Working from home supporters (myself included!) often cite studies that showcase the benefits of breaking the confines of the traditional office. While these studies are reputable and the data speaks for itself, for those people that have not been fully accustomed to working from home, productivity can slowly diminish.

A study by Dr. Helen Fitzhugh on the long-term health consequences to confined working found that there are a number of wellbeing issues, including tiredness, boredom, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and even elevated drug and alcohol abuse.

It’s essential to bear in mind that for those who aren’t fans of working solo in their own space, hard to measure elements such as creativity, inspiration, and innovative thinking can reduce. Being around other people allows us to demonstrate our personal human qualities like collaboration and empathy; a lack of this interpersonal communication can have repercussions for some of us.

Some studies prove for those that enjoy the hustle and bustle of office life, the rate of problem-solving increases when collaborating in the same room as their peers. That team unity can become impaired when working remotely. The benefits of social interaction are not to be ignored.

Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

Does presenteeism become an issue?

Remote workers are reported to take shorter breaks and fewer sick days. Let’s face it; if you are at home anyway, regardless of feeling under the weather, it won’t hurt to do some work, will it? Yes, it will.

This approach will lead to burn out faster than a traditional set up because some remote workers admit that it is difficult to separate work life from home life and an ‘always on’ mind frame can soon occur.

Employees need to feel safe that despite working from home, the same rules apply when they are unwell, and that is up to you as an employer to enforce. Remote working isn’t an opportunity to squeeze as much efficiency and productivity out of your employees; it is about enabling them to find a work-life balance that works for them.

Sure, a slip in productivity can be alarming, but it always serves well to take a supportive and empathetic approach rather than putting an employee on trial.

Working from home can become lonely, especially if you are someone that thrives on interaction. It is for this reason that co-working spaces have become popular; individuals who like to work in an office set up and be around other people can draw energy from their surroundings without employers having to revert to rigid office hours and space.

This puts the onus back in the hands of the individual, empowering them to make choices over the elements that go with working in an office, such as the commute.

Avoid taking a blanket approach

The environment in which we work best is a very personal decision. Right now, among the heat of the corona pandemic it’s easy to ditch the office space, reduce your costs and roll out a remote-only operation. But be careful that this decision doesn’t later damage your team once the crisis is over and the dust has settled. 

While some of us are happy to work alone and adapt to a virtual workspace and culture, others will find the lack of face-to-face time stilts their motivation and productivity, and as a result, innovation suffers.

It’s important to remember that flexible must be just that – flexible and balanced. It must be able to work for each employee, not just the ones that want to work from home indefinitely.

Perhaps remote working has been overhyped and forced social distancing has meant that we have become desensitised to the joy and inspiration that comes with physically connecting with another person.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella summed it up best when he said, ‘What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after. One of the things I feel is, hey, maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?’

If you are trying to navigate ways to introduce flexible and long-term remote working, but still want to create a culture of collaboration and innovation, I can help you. Contact me today to discuss how I can help you.


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    About The Author

    Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.