One of the silver linings of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the shift to hybrid or 100% remote work. For office workers who dread their daily commute, this has been something of a dream come true. In particular, for those with children working from home, it makes life a lot easier, enabling parents to drop off or pick up the kids from nursery or school without constantly feeling rushed.
Aside from saving time, there are also monetary benefits, as working from home can save on things like travel costs (think train tickets or petrol), lunch expenses and dry cleaning bills. Another benefactor is the environment, as fewer people commuting means less traffic and a reduction in carbon emissions.
So, it would appear that working from home is the way forward – but is this really the case? In this article, we take a look at some of the potential downsides of remote work in order to help you make a more informed decision about whether it’s right for you.
One of the key disadvantages of working from home is isolation. Whereas in an office environment you are surrounded by people all day long, at home you can easily go several hours without speaking to anyone – which can be quite lonely. This sense of isolation can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Fewer social interactions
Moreover, reduced social interactions, in particular, can impact younger employees, who form friendships (and sometimes also relationships) in the office. Of course, you can still stay in touch with your colleagues via email, Slack or video call, but it’s not the same as being able to have a quick chat at the water cooler or exchanging office gossip over a pint at the pub after work. This lack of social interaction can make working from home quite lonely and difficult to stick to long-term.
One advantage of commuting by foot, public transport or bicycle is getting some daily exercise. Just 10 minutes of walking or cycling per day are beneficial to your health, as research has shown. When working from home, you will have to compensate for this lack of exercise by working out at home, going to the gym or taking a daily stroll through the park. Unfortunately, it is likely that many won’t have the discipline to do so. As a result, their total minutes of exercise per week may decrease as a result of working from home.
Another potential downside of remote work is that it can be quite easy to get distracted at home. With no one looking over your shoulder, it’s all too easy to start browsing the internet or checking social media when you should be working. This can have a negative impact on your productivity, your performance, and ultimately your employer’s bottom line.
Living at the office
Furthermore, if you share a workspace with others in your household, it can be hard to create boundaries between work and home life. This is especially the case if you don’t have a dedicated office space in your house. Working from the kitchen table or sofa might be fine for a while, but it can quickly start to feel like you’re living at the office – which isn’t good for your work-life balance.
Last but not least, again, something that particularly impacts employees earlier in their careers, is the lack of learning from other, often more senior employees. When you’re starting out in your career, it’s important to have mentors and colleagues who can help guide you and offer advice when needed. In an office environment, this is relatively easy as you can simply ask a colleague for their opinion or advice on a work-related issue. When you’re working remotely, however, this process can be more difficult and time-consuming, as you need to schedule video calls or meetings in order to pick someone’s brain. It just makes it harder to form a relationship with a mentor.
All in all, there are both pros and cons to working from home. It’s important to weigh up the different factors in order to decide whether remote work is right for you. If you do decide to give it a go, make sure to set some boundaries between work and home life, and try to stay as connected as possible with your colleagues.