‘I don’t want to go to work today.’, ‘Can I get a work from home leave?’, ‘I hate to face this rash traffic every morning!’.
The almost daily morning cries of many employees across the world have finally been heard. Everybody has been forced to shut themselves up in their homes, while the COVID-19 pandemic creates havoc on the planet.
In a time where social distancing is the priority above everything, work from home is not an option but a compulsion. Even the managers who had concerns about their employee’s productivity had to give in to this nature’s tragedy. But is this the way how we see the future of the nature of work? Are we ready to adopt work from home as the ‘new normal?
On the surface, many advantages of work from home can be seen, such as time saved from no commuting, spending more time with family, flexible work hours and the most important aspect is being protected from getting infected! No doubt that works from home is the need of the hour, but after months of staying in lockdown, employees are facing fatigue. Surely, work from home can be a desirable option but it can never replace the office set-up in the future.
Here are some of the reasons why work from home cannot be the ‘new normal’ (at least as of now):
- Workspace Challenges: Not every employee has a quiet work-suited environment at home. Household chores distraction poses a serious problem to many of them. This lack of focus decreases their productivity. Many employees also struggle with finding the right place to work in their congested homes. They end up sitting on their dining table or couch that leads to physical and psychological discomfort. Work from home once in a while is fine, but creating an office-like atmosphere every day at home is practically impossible.
- Lack of Creative Collaboration: When productivity is measured in the terms of creativity and innovation, it becomes difficult to do so in a virtual set-up. Sitting for long hours in front of a screen is exhausting leaving no space for any kind of creativity or enthusiasm towards work. Though traveling for work is tiring but virtual offices also cause tremendous mental strain. Some studies even show that working online requires more focus than offline. All this boils down to mental fatigue lowering the efficiency of an employee. An office set-up provides the perfect environment for co-workers to collaborate, brainstorm, and forge new ideas together. This important aspect of work is not probable virtually.
- Work-life balance: In the initial days of lockdown, people enjoyed working from home. There was no time wasted in commuting, comfortable clothes, and spending more time with family. But over time, employees have realized that they are now spending an increased amount of time working than usual. The lines between professional and personal life get blurred when domestic chore demands attention while doing work and call-related works disturbs your fun family time. Short weekend trips with family and colleagues push off some stress of the mind, which is not feasible in today’s time. Employees find it hard to distinguish between weekdays and weekends.
- Lack of resources: Not all the employees and their organizations have the means to shift to complete virtual mode. Though some of the large companies were already familiar with the concept of work from home and didn’t find many complications in this transformation, some organizations had to face this kind of situation for the first time. Few of them made it through the first few difficult months, while some didn’t and collapsed. No wonder why the number of jobs losses in the initial months was so high.
- Loneliness: Man is a social animal. Even if someone likes being alone, he cannot spend his whole life without physical interactions, therefore working from home becomes difficult. There are various means of connecting online, thanks to video calling apps, but they can never replace the pleasure of working together.
- Lack of motivation: A sense of motivation is the key to achieve anything in life and this applies to your workplace as well. Indeed, self-motivation is the best kind of motivation but sometimes we do need external validation to do our work efficiently. Employers find even a small pep talk from their seniors and colleagues to get them back on track whenever there is any feeling of burnout. But this scarcely happens online. Workers find themselves stuck in a home-and-work spiral with derailing enthusiasm for work.
- Productivity risks: This is one of the major reasons why many managers and company heads are against working from home. They are not able to keep an eye on their employees which is important for those working under him to continue doing their work efficiently. The fact that there are incessant breaks when working at home cannot be neglected completely which harms the productivity of the business as a whole in a major way.
A Way Forward
With work from home not being the perfect answer and the pandemic not going anytime soon, how do we move forward? Flexibility is the key! Overall these are testing times for all of us. Companies are required to make out a practice that best suits the safety of the employees and the profits of the employer. Some companies have already started seeing the future of work in hybrid mode where employees are supposed to go to the office around 3 to 4 days a week.
Even though the time demands it today, Work from home is not a viable option in the long run. People also start to feel a sense of alienation and loneliness by staying at home for longer periods. Organizers need to create a culture where they are constantly in contact with their employers. These are indeed unprecedented times and it is important that as we recover from the pandemic, we learn new things and venture into uncharted waters.