WHAT ABOUT THE DOWNSIDES OF REMOTE WORKING?
Modern remote working is nothing new. Since the 1990s, greater connectivity, developments in technology and the rise of the Internet have enabled people to work from home (or a location other than their central office). But the pandemic has seen a significant increase in the number of remote workers. More than 40% of employed people were working from home in Australia in the first half of August 2021, up from 32% in August 2019. The pros of remote working—for employers and employees—include less commuting time, greater work-life balance, flexible work schedules, enhanced access to talent and diversity, higher productivity and a lesser carbon footprint. For some businesses there is no going back. Last year, tech giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft announced that their people could work from home forever.
But is working from home all it’s cracked up to be? What about the downsides of remote working? Before deciding that Work From Home (WFH) is the way forward, it’s important to consider the potential pitfalls and challenges.
Negative Impact on Physical and Mental Health
Human beings are a social species so it’s no surprise to learn that isolation from others can be harmful. The pandemic has certainly shone a light on this with more people reporting social isolation and loneliness as lockdown restrictions came into effect in Australia. Social isolation is linked to a range of negative outcomes, including mental illness, emotional distress, poor health behaviours and poor sleep, while loneliness has been linked to poor physical and mental health.
Lack of Real Communication
People can take only so many virtual meetings. Yes, Zoom fatigue is a thing, especially when there’s a requirement to have a webcam on for every call. Add communication via email, instant messaging apps and phone calls into the mix and exhaustion may take over. Even in a digital age, real face-to-face interactions and in-person meetings are important, especially for trust-building, forging connections and discussing sensitive and emotional topics.
When someone’s home is also their workplace, they are confronted with a wealth of distractions: washing up, pets, the latest DIY project, small children . . . The temptation to do something else instead of work is constant. Some people are able to knuckle down, which is great; for others, tackling the daily workload without co-workers and managers to support and motivate them, might be a major struggle.
When people work remotely, and especially if they have a flexible work schedule, the question is: when do they log off? When their laptop is just a few steps across the lounge room and their phone is by their side, they risk being available to their employer 24/7. They’re still answering emails and updating online charts at 10pm when, in the workplace, they’d knock off at 5.30pm. Their home is no longer the place where they can disconnect and relax at the end of a busy day.
Distance from Company Culture & Values
From the recruitment phase onwards, an organisation strives to sell a ‘package’ to potential employees. The idea is that individuals absorb company culture and demonstrate its values in their day-to-day dealings. In a physical workplace, especially one with a structured onboarding process, total immersion in company culture is often successful. It is far more difficult to achieve when people are working remotely.
Imagine running out of printer toner or A4 paper and not being able to head to the office stationery cupboard to stock up. When people work from home, they are responsible for keeping an eye on supplies, cleaning their workstation, shredding confidential documents, and much more. A no brainer if they’re an organised type; if not, the logistical side of remote working could be a challenge.
While remote working has many advantages for employers and employees, it’s definitely worth weighing up the benefits and pitfalls before deciding it’s the optimal solution for your organisation and people.
Whether you’re looking for a WFH role or prefer to be based in the workplace, contact the Optimal Recruitment team today on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 8416 4181.