It won’t be an exaggeration to say the pandemic has brought disruption around the world. Its repercussions on us is slated to be deep and long-lasting—both in terms of work and personal levels. The work from home (WFH) phenomenon has been one of the most widely experienced and life-changing consequences.
Having been restricted to their home now for several months, remote workers’ views towards WFH have undoubtedly been evolving. In the beginning, those who were new to this new work culture did experience some unexpected benefits from WFH. It offered them protection from the risk of infection. Moreover, it also offered them flexibility and convenience: no need to commute, no dress code and being able to stay with one’s family. Some people were also astounded to experience how much more prolific they could be when away from the usual workplace disruptions: conversations among co-workers and unplanned meetings that can disturb one’s concentration and make it difficult to re-focus.
Also, from the organization’s point of view, business operations also proved to be more effective than expected when staff were all of a sudden compelled to work remotely, all the credit goes to technology—which has even led some to question the future prospect of the office.
However, in recent times, we’ve started seeing a change in state of mind about WFH which indicates that a large number of employees want to come back to the office.
So, why this sudden change in the mindset regarding WFH? Let’s have a look at some of the vital points:
At home everyone’s status quo is altered. When WFH is the only option, those who live in a more narrowed environment are faced with higher physiological and psychological discomfort. Inadequate ventilation, unergonomic furniture, poor lighting, and frequent distractions from domestic noise may cause stress and strain, ultimately impeding the quality of work.
The domestic arrangements of a lot of employees make them feel more vulnerable to invasions of privacy. In one’s home, video conferencing can all of a sudden feel too intimate, as colleagues can see into our homes and family relationships more than we would want them to. The existence of other members at home can also interfere in the privacy needed for certain focused tasks, which ultimately impacts productivity.
Sense of belonging
A feeling of love and belonging is an essential human need. Everyone wants to be cared for and stay connected with their family. In India, many people live away from their families in distant places for work. Amid this pandemic, social distancing and isolation from their colleagues and friends have deprived them of the human bond and interaction that is essential to their mental wellbeing.
Meaning and purpose
Knowing that your work is building towards something and helping others is one of the most vital elements to happiness at work. When working distantly and connecting with other only in digital space, this can be difficult to feel. In order to boost their morale most employees need to achieve a sense of purpose and achievement.
In this WFH situation productivity is hard to define. On one hand, solo tasks are easily accomplished at home. On the other hand, creativity and innovation, which are essential in solving complex problems, require high-performing collaboration and are difficult to achieve when teammates work apart from each other.
Lower work-life balance
One of the general misunderstandings about WFH is that it gives employees better work-life balance. Undoubtedly, no office means no travel and more time to spend with family and friends. Though, employees are working longer hours each day as the difference between ‘work’ and ‘home’ gets blurred.
Safety and security
For employees’ health and safety, an insufficient set-up for work at home can pose threats. At the same time, when staff carry company information to their homes, where there is less control over who has access to the home office set-up, organizations must consider the security of information and the protection of company IP. Nevertheless, many homes cannot manage to pay for the luxury of committing space to protect the security of the employer’s information.
In today’s complex and constantly changing business world, organizations must stay agile and be highly adaptive in order to compete. Most businesses and teams have demonstrated their ability to accept and adjust quickly to the pandemic-related WFH mandate. However, offering employees options of where and how they work as they toggle between tasks, and providing teams with a collaborative and ergonomic environment for them to interact and innovate together will remain vital to success in the long-run.
It goes without saying WFH has some benefits under a nimble work strategy. Most of us have become more used to working outside the office after this mass experiment of WFH around the world. As a way to offer employees flexibility post COVID-19, business leaders and their HR heads are also more likely to accept WFH. However, we should not imagine home to purely replace the office.
Whilst companies endeavour to help their teams work on hindrances they face as they continue to be restricted to home, they would better start looking at how to amend their offices to make sure employees’ safety in the workplace too, and allow them to socialise and work together whilst following the new, post-COVID workplace rules. Their teams want them to return to the office as soon as they can.