With so many in the workforce new to working from home and working remotely to colleagues it is highly likely that there will be a strong percentage who will either be loving or hating the experience. This extreme reaction is not unlike the experience of personnel when they are sent deployed as expats to other cities or countries, something I discussed specifically a while ago in a previous article.
In the expat environment these extremes are referred to as xenophelia (a love for the new) and xenophobia (a distrust or dislike of the new), so could we introduce some new terms into our vocabulary for this love and hate of working from home and working virtually? If so, I would propose virtuophelia (a love of working virtually) and virtuophobia (a dislike/hatred for working virtually)? After all, any new terms like these can’t be any more pervasive than some of the new expressions that are finding their way into our vocabulary, terms like social distancing and flattening the curve.
So , below are a few thoughts as to why someone would love or hate working from home.
Things to love about working from home
Working from home (or at least working outside of a corporate office) has many benefits and reasons to love it:
- Freedom to work more flexible hours – working from home allows the individual to have a lot more flexibility around their working hours and the location they undertake their work. This can be easily seen in those who work from coffee shops, public libraries, airports and hotels.
- Working from home enables people to care for family members as part of a flexible working structure – whether caring for dependent children, partners, parents or extended family members, the closer proximity and ability to juggle work hours means it is much easier for those working from home to look after their relatives.
- Reduced commute time frees up more personal time – regardless of the length of commute, we all give up a portion of our time to travel to and from our traditional office. Working from home means the commute is quite literally fro the kitchen table to the laptop. Those extra minutes can be used for rest, exercise or any other activity.
- Working from home is more inclusive – in theory at least, working from home should make access to work more inclusive for those who otherwise may have been restricted by their ability to access a traditional office for standard working hours. This would include, for example, those caring for young children, elderly relatives or dependent family members, or those with an impediment that may have limited their movement.
- Freedom to travel while still earning a living – in the pre COVID-19 world it was relatively common for people to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle, working their way around the world as digitally enabled consultants. During the COVID-19 pandemic this ease of travel is clearly not an easy option, but there are still more options available to people who have adopted this style of working.
Things to hate about working from home
Equally, there are a number of things to hate about working from home:
- It can be very isolating – Working remotely to your team and your colleagues can lead to an ever increasing sense of isolation. You may get to spend more time with your family but from a work sense, you are not able to have spontaneous and organic discussions with colleagues which can lead to a sense of loss of connection.
- There are more distractions – Most of us have set up our home environment to include all of the social distractions we use to enjoy our time away from the office. This can include TV, games and other forms of recreation, all of which can act like a huge temptation when trying to focus on work.
- Balancing work and home life is hard – If you have even a partner working from home alongside you it can be hard to share a home for work, with the addition of home schooling for children, supporting external family members and friends, finding that balance is a real additional challenge.
- It can be hard to maintain workflow – Dependent on your job it can be much harder to maintain the flow of work when working in isolation from colleagues. So many of our daily tasks are so interdependent on the work of others and their input, even little things can suddenly start to slow down the flow of tasks.
- Managers can find it hard to trust their personnel – For a lot of managers, particularly those in more traditional office based environments, this may be the first time they have had numbers of staff working external. This change of situation may well lead to issues of trust where they feel that because they cant see work happening they need to be continually checking on productivity.
- Staff can find it hard to remain visible – For a lot of staff who have never experienced working remote to their office, the sudden lack of being visible to their line manager and colleagues can be confronting. They may worry that they will be forgotten and may start to compensate by calling for a lot of additional meetings and discussions with their manager.
As you can see from the short lists above, there are a lot of things to love and hate about working remotely or from home. At the moment, probably for many the biggest additional concern will be how long this will last. This feeling is likely to contribute to an overall sense of displacement and uncertainty in much of the workforce. Many will want to return to the previous office based work form as soon as possible, some though will enjoy working from home so much they will want it either to stay as is or remain inn some form once the pandemic passes.