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Working from Home isn’t for everyone – It’s Okay to Admit it

Working From Home Isn’t For Everyone – It’s Okay To Admit It

by Shalini Jabar

Working from home is great. Not having to commute through peak traffic means getting more sleep or having time to exercise. The outfits are more comfortable. You control the temperature. There’s no line for the microwave in the kitchen at lunch. 

There are countless other upsides on the list. However, it is not for everyone and the downside list is not mentioned half as much as the other unless it’s coming from the point of view of the organisation. Employees may feel hesitant to speak out against it because most, if not all of their other coworkers, want the policy to remain in place. This can leave those employees with growing resentment as their concerns are being suppressed and thus reduces the chances of those concerns being addressed. 

If working from home has been less than ideal for you, here are some of the issues you may have:

  1. Maintaining workplace relationships

If you have built a strong in-person bond with some of your coworkers across the organisation, it’s worrying that working from home will see that crumble since eating lunch together or chatting at the coffee station is no longer an option. These interactions are important since they grow your own personal network and may help your quality of work since it opens you up to different perspectives and context can be useful when making decisions. 

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  1. Being seen

Working from home limits opportunities to be seen and therefore inhibits the capacity for growth. This is closely related to the point above but is more pointed towards opportunities for promotion. 

In an article for Inc.com by Minda Zetlin, Professor of Economics Nicholas Bloom says, “Why do people working from home miss out on promotions? For two reasons. The first amounts to “out of sight, out of mind.” People who work from home tend to be forgotten when it comes to handing out plum assignments or promotions. This problem may disappear in time, with more people working from home and companies learning to deal with them better. But the other problem is stickier. When you come in to work and you go for lunch or coffee or chat with people, you’re developing more firm exposure and culture, and managerial ability. You have a better sense of what’s going on. People who don’t come to the office regularly risk getting disconnected from their colleagues, and that limits their potential as leaders.”

  1. High workspace cost and lack of comfort 

Having a dedicated workspace at home is recommended so that the boundary between work and home is clear. Often this is not possible for various reasons – limited physical space, multiple persons in one household working from home which leads to overcrowding or limited resources to spend on furnishing a workspace. Besides purchasing a desk, chair and maybe even a computer other costs that can build up are utilities and internet. 

  1. Lower productivity

Living near to a business place or roadway that is noisy during the day or having kids at home that require attention can affect concentration and therefore affects productivity. It can also reduce willingness to contribute during virtual meetings since a noisy environment will affect how well the employee can be heard. If multiple people are using the same internet connection, there can be connectivity and speed issues that will provide an obstacle to getting work done efficiently.  

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  1. Blurred boundaries

Sometimes it is assumed by management that because employees are at home they are available at any time since technically they are always “at work”. On the other hand, since there are no coworkers for you to see walking out of the door or no bag to pack up at the end of the day, it’s easy to lose track of time and keep working even though the official work day is over. It may even be tempting to come back to work later in the evening because it is convenient to do so. While it may relieve some of your load for the next day, it can become a habit and then lead to feeling overworked and exhausted. 

Photo by Tima Miroschnichenko from Pexels

Companies should invest in crafting a policy which considers the options that work best for their employee’s diverse needs. Some companies are demanding that all employees return to the office eventually and others have committed to allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely. Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey has stated that the social media giant will allow their employees to work from home “forever”. A one-size-fits-all policy will always leave someone out. 

Employees do have some power to demand a better policy and ask for a compromise between extremes. In an article for The Verge, Zoe Schiffer reported that Apple employees pushed back against their new policy in a letter outlining changes they would like to see. Below is an excerpt of the letter:

“We ask for your support in enabling those who want to work remotely / in location-flexible ways to continue to do so, letting everyone figure out which work setup works best for them, their team, and their role — be it in one of our offices, from home, or a hybrid solution. We are living proof that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for people. For Inclusion and Diversity to work, we have to recognise how different we all are, and with those differences, come different needs and different ways to thrive. We feel that Apple has both the responsibility to recognise these differences, as well as the capability to fully embrace them. Officially enabling individual management chains and individual teams to make decisions that work best for their teams roles, individuals, and needs — and having that be the official stated policy rather than the rare individual exceptions — would alleviate the concerns and reservations many of us currently have.”

Rebecca Hinds, Organisational Physician and Entrepreneur says, “While there is no one-size-fits-all model and no playbook for deciding which remote or hybrid model is right for your company, neither a top-down or bottom-up approach is the optimal one. The most successful leaders and companies will iterate between top-down and bottom-up approaches until they meaningfully converge.”

People live different lives and have different needs. Fitting everyone into a box may seem the most manageable option for the organisation but quality of life and maintaining high employee morale are priorities as well with tangible advantages – such as increased productivity, willingness to take initiative and improvement in communication skills. 

As we continue to navigate an ever-changing landscape, it will be interesting to see how companies innovate to find the best solution for their businesses and employees. 

Works Cited

Hinds, Rebecca. “Get Clear on Your Remote or Hybrid Work Policy with This Framework.” Inc.com, Inc., 19 June 2021, https://www.inc.com/rebecca-hinds/get-clear-on-your-remote-or-hybrid-work-policy-with-this-framework.html. 

Paul, Kari. “Twitter Announces Employees Will Be Allowed to Work from Home ‘Forever’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 May 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/may/12/twitter-coronavirus-covid19-work-from-home. 

Schiffer, Zoe. “Apple Employees Push Back against Returning to the Office in Internal Letter.” The Verge, The Verge, 5 June 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/6/4/22491629/apple-employees-push-back-return-office-internal-letter-tim-cook. Zetlin, Minda. “Parents Want to Work from Home. Here’s Why They Shouldn’t, a Stanford Professor Says.” Inc.com, Inc., 26 June 2021, https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/work-from-home-wfh-remote-work-parents-promotions-career-nicholas-bloom-stanford.html

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