In the past, survey after survey showed that the majority of people want to work from home. Well, now we’ve had a chance. For the past six weeks or so, every job that could be done from home has been done from home. And you know what? It’s okay to hate it.
While this world-wide shutdown didn’t happen to test out just how effective working from home is, it’s been a nice side effect. And some people have discovered that they hate it.
Now, it’s important to remember that Coronacommuting is not the same as normal telecommuting. When you work from home in regular times, your kids are at school, the cafés are open, and you’re not concerned about you or your loved ones dying. So, don’t think this is how working from home has to be. It isn’t. But, even working from home during normal times isn’t something that works for everyone.
On the flip side, while some people are finding that they hate working from home, some companies are seeing dollar signs (or Euro signs) in their eyes, as the thoughts of giving up expensive leased office space dances before them. If everyone works from home, then overhead costs drop. It’s not an insignificant expense.
But, before businesses decide to increase working from home, think through these things.
Not Everyone Lives in Four Bedroom Houses
If you live in a large house where you can easily have dedicated office space, working from home can be great. If you live in a small apartment with four roommates and an over-active dog, working from home is not a practical long-term solution. Depending on what you do, sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end can wreak havoc on your back and your roommates’ patience.
Working at home works better for higher paid people with more resources at home. While working at home can save commuting costs (which can be substantial in some areas for some people), if you don’t have enough space to have a dedicated desk and appropriate office chair, it won’t work well.
Teamwork can be harder at home
I’m not going to argue that you can’t build a strong team remotely. I’ve worked from home for the past 11 years and have built strong relationships with people who I’ve never actually met in person. It’s possible.
But it’s harder.
It can seem awkward and like a huge time waster to ask at the beginning of a video conference if everyone is caught up on the Tiger King, and do they really think Carol Baskin used anchovy oil to “dispose” of her husband’s body. But, when you walk into the office in the morning and say, “Oh my word, please tell me you’re watching this!” it’s a casual conversation.
Those kinds of conversations do help for team building. When you get to know your coworkers as individuals, you’re more willing to listen to their ideas and ignore their flaws.
People need people
Even though we like to say people are either extroverts or introverts, it’s not that black and white. Human contact is an essential aspect of mental health. Some people need more contact than others.
When working from home during normal times, you can go to a café, meet friends for lunch, or fulfill your people-needs with your healthy social life. That’s enough for a lot of people! But, for some people, it’s not enough. They need more contact, and working in an office helps fulfill that.
Work never ends
When you work from home, boundaries can become confusing on all sides. Your neighbors see you at home and (if you’re female) think you’re available for free babysitting. Your boss knows your computer and all your materials are right there, so surely you can knock out this one project at 9:30 at night.
It’s easier to set boundaries with other people, though, then it is with yourself. It can be challenging to make yourself step away from the “office” when it’s next to your bed. Days blur into nights, and there are no bright lines for off-and-on the clock.
You still need to comply with all local labor laws, but tracking hours can be weird. You might think, “I’ll just spend five more minutes on this slide,” but then an hour and a half later, you’re still in PowerPoint hell.
Going to and leaving an office helps people create healthy work boundaries. You can do most things tomorrow.
All of this doesn’t mean I’m not a champion for working at home. I am! I love it. Or at least, I did love it, and I’ll love it again when my children go back to school, and my favorite cafés re-open. But, if you have found that you hate working from home, there’s not something wrong with you.
If you’re a business owner that is tempted to go to a 100 percent remote model, think about how that move will impact your business and your employees. It may be fantastic. It may not be. Talk with people before you make final decisions.
And no matter what, everyone keep safe out there.
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