Working from home: Higher productivity & better quality of life, or more stress?
World Day for Safety and Health at Work - 28 April
Over the past few weeks, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, governments and organizations have mobilized to reduce physical contact between individuals. Workplaces have been disrupted and rearranged with breathtaking speed as working from home became a mass requirement overnight. Eventually, we will overcome this and go back to some sort of normalcy, but the outbreak will create long-lasting changes to the way we live and work.
How are employees coping with remote work?
Higher productivity & better quality of life
Research shows that when people get a taste of remote working, they almost unanimously want to continue to work remotely for the rest of their careers. It enables them to have flexible schedules and work locations, spend more time with their loved ones, eliminate daily commutes, attend important family events, and enjoy a healthier, happier and higher quality of life.
When people feel happy and have a free mind—not having to think about who is going to watch over their young children, or take care of older sick family members, or even not having to endure a brutal two-to-three-hour round trip commute to and from work, they are able to concentrate better on their work, and be more creative and productive.
Companies also recognize that employees can relatively easily work from home, and may opt to encourage this behavior as they see how much money will be saved by ditching pricey offices. Trends across the remote work landscape clearly demonstrates how work is becoming (or has become) the new normal.
Now that people have tasted freedom, it's going to be hard to bring everyone back from home.
View the full report: The 2020 State of Remote Work
A source of stress
On the other hand, some employees may be facing emotional pressures with this new concept of remote working as they might be feeling isolated and lonely, or feel stressed—if they don't enjoy their work or their daily work activities, now their "personal space" has become their "work space".
Research has proven that the top challenges for remote employees and remote organizations are collaboration, communication, and loneliness. While this may not come in as a shock, companies are continually exploring means to iterate and improve communication practices, and minimize remote work loneliness for their employees.
Many may wonder why this is still a top concern in a time filled with seemingly hundreds of digital products and tools to keep people connected. One idea could be that organizations never took the importance of managing their remote employees very seriously prior to this. Today, remote work has become the new normal and it is affecting employee productivity and businesses. (Get in touch with BrioHR to see how we can help you simplify communication with your remote employees and keep them engaged. Try it for free today!)
Another struggle remote employees face is the inability to 'unplug'. When work and home lives are shoved under the same roof, some may find it difficult to disconnect. This challenge occurs as remote employees don't have specific timings to adhere to, or a reason to stop working (for example, with a deadline and tasks yet to be completed). In normal circumstances, office buildings would close at a certain time, or when colleagues are leaving and saying their goodbyes for the day, you know that it's time to turn off your laptop and leave work for another day.
Working parents with young kids may find it difficult to concentrate having their kids running and playing around them, or consistently asking for their assistance. Young adults may also find it tough to not be distracted by playing video games or watching their favourite Netflix series, or simply having their parents asking them to run errands just because they see them around.
Additionally, working at home can mean that you may have a mediocre wifi connection and this can be a great source of stress.
View the full report here: The 2020 State of Remote Work
There are ups and the downs to working remotely. Some might take this opportunity to continue working from home on most days of the week once the coronavirus lockdown is lifted, and others may find it a complete relieve to go back to their usual pattern of going to the office and having their 'work space' and 'home space' separated.
With the rise of technology in the future of work and to anticipate forthcoming issues such as the pandemic we are facing right now, companies will look into implementing a possibility of remote work for their employees in their work culture to be able to continue business, if and when another issue such as this arises.
Here are some useful tips on how you can make your home workstation more creative and productive, and learn how to identify behaviors of remote employees who are grappling with emotional aspects of working from home.
How to make your home office more conducive to productivity?
- Build your happy place - Create a space where you feel comfortable and enjoy working in.
- Boost your mood - Have your pets or plants or scented candles in your home workstation to help you boost your energy and enjoy the feel-good sensation that comes from it.
- Play with the lighting - Change the atmosphere of your home office to have more or less light. It helps create a different ambiance and positive vibes. Studies continue to show that what we see and interact with directly influences our sense of well-being.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique - It is a method for employees to decompress for a moment and come back refreshed and ready to focus. Taking breaks throughout the day is on of the most effective ways to stay productive.
- Set boundaries between work and personal life - Know when it's time to switch off as it can be difficult to know when to stop working when working from home. Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can help you get in a mental zone if space is an issue as some of us may need to share workspaces, living rooms or kitchens with friends, spouses or parents.
It can be exciting to conduct your own 'working from home' experiment to see what makes you feel good; it's a chance to explore a preferred working style. Be creative and use this opportunity to get to know yourself better. Understand the kind of environment you'd like to work in, and what keeps you energized and motivated.
Are remote employees starting to crack under the stress of working from home?
- Warning Sign #1: Lack of resilience - Resilience is our ability to handle difficult or an unpleasant situation. If any of your employees face difficulties concentrating, or loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, or start feeling hopeless about their future, or feel distant or cut-ff from others, or feel irritable or angry, it's a sign that they are feeling stressed.
- Warning Sign #2: More mistakes than usual - Take notice if your employees are making more mistakes in their daily tasks than they normally do, or if they are missing deadlines. This is one of the signs that your employees are starting to burn out.
- Warning Sign #3: Negative talk - When people feel stressed, you'll hear more negativity and emotionality in their language. They'll also be more prone to catastrophizing situations and using words such as 'impossible' or 'never' (for example, "This is impossible" or "I can never get this done").
Pay attention to these warning signs in your remote working employees' behaviors through videoconference calls, emails, or chats so you'll be aware of those who are struggling and you'll be able to intervene as soon as possible.
Related article: Is it HR's job to make you happy at work?
Did you enjoy reading this article? Leave a comment in the comment space below.
Is you HR equipped with the right tools to keep your remote employees engaged? Check out BrioHR's all-in-one HR Management Platform to simplify communication and engagement with your remote employees, and make technology work for you anytime, anywhere!