The COVID pandemic continues to be a reality for many countries, causing widespread disruption and confusion in our lives. For the past three years, people all over the world, from the US to Australia, are longing for a return to normalcy and a break from the office.
However, not everyone shares the same sentiments. While some employees are eager to return to their physical workplaces, others are hesitant to leave the comfort and flexibility of working from home. Some have even decided to part ways with employers who insist on a return to the traditional office setting.
Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, many people have found a new balance between work and life, embracing remote work as a way to strike a perfect harmony. They’ve discovered the numerous benefits that come with working from the comfort of their own homes or even exotic locations. It’s a new way of life that they wouldn’t trade for the traditional office environment.
How has the change in the way of working affected the office space?
The COVID pandemic has forever changed the way we perceive remote work. While it has brought its fair share of challenges, it has also allowed businesses to recognize the potential of a decentralized workforce.
In response, companies are revising their policies and embracing a more flexible, adaptable, and autonomous workforce. Social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify are leading the charge by embracing remote work, while institutions like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs prefer a return to the traditional office environment.
However, the debate over whether remote work increases or decreases productivity remains ongoing. Research shows that telecommuting can boost efficiency, but some experts argue that direct communication and collaboration are essential for a thriving work culture.
In the end, the benefits and drawbacks of remote work are still being evaluated. We’re only just scratching the surface of this fascinating topic, so let’s dive in!
"Home office" is not a new phenomenon
The idea of working from home, also known as the “home office,” has been around for quite some time. In 2015, Professor Nicholas Blum of Stanford University conducted a study with his colleagues on the impact of remote work on productivity. The study involved comparing two groups of call center workers – those who worked in an office and those who worked from home – over a three-month period, and found a 13% increase in productivity for the remote workers.
Despite this, Professor Blum is not entirely optimistic about the rise of extended remote work due to the COVID pandemic. He believes that the current situation presents several risks to productivity, such as working in an uncertain environment. In June 2020, he stated, “This has the potential to create a catastrophe in the productivity of firms.”
But, have Professor Blum’s fears come to fruition? The answer is still up for debate.
What do the results of the study show?
The experts are still hard at work trying to uncover the mysteries of remote work. Jose Maria Barrero of the Mexican Autonomous Institute of Technology and Stephen J. Davis of Chicago Booth joined forces with our old friend, Professor Bloom, to launch a monthly survey of American workers in May 2020. They tracked over 30,000 workers, with an average age of 20 to 64 and an average income of $20,000, to gauge the impact of the pandemic on remote work.
The survey not only measures productivity, but also the overall comfort and well-being of employees, and even factors like the impact on city centers, traffic, and fuel prices. And the researchers didn’t just rely on the survey results, they also talked to dozens of American business owners to get a well-rounded picture. All the results and research can be found on wfhresearch.com.
Fast forward to March 2021, and the results are in! To the surprise of the researchers, nearly 60% of workers reported being more productive working from home. While 14% claimed to have done less work than expected, on average, workers were 7% more productive at home. 40% reported being more productive at home during the pandemic than at the office, while only 15% said the opposite.
The conclusion? The trend of remote work is here to stay, and it’s only just getting started.
The risks of working from a home office
On the bright side, remote work comes with its undeniable perks. Say goodbye to the morning rush hour and hello to more quality time with loved ones. Not to mention, a home office environment can significantly reduce work-related stress.
However, it’s important to acknowledge the potential drawbacks of remote work too. Let’s dive into both perspectives for a well-rounded view.
Working from home sounds like a dream come true – no more rush hour traffic, less stress, and more time with your loved ones. But, as it turns out, remote work comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest problems? Musculoskeletal pain caused by a poorly set up workspace, a non-ergonomic chair, and hours spent sitting.
According to ergonomic design specialist, Meredith Christiansen, DPT, PhD, the solution is simple. Keep your computer monitor within arm’s reach, keep your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle, and get up and move every hour of your work day. Alternating between a sitting desk and a standing desk can also help combat immobility, which can creep up when working from home.
And if you’re feeling pain, take action as soon as possible to prevent it from becoming chronic. Christiansen’s words of wisdom? “It’s never too late to address these types of issues.”
alone. Eye strain is becoming more and more common among remote workers, and it’s all thanks to our constant screen time.
According to Dr. Daniel Richardson, optometrist and founder of Fierce Clarity, our eyes are working overtime thanks to all the time we spend looking at screens. “There are eye muscles that contract when we look close up, and they relax when we look away,” explains Dr. Richardson. “But with remote work, we’re not only working in front of a monitor. We have Zoom meetings, we write and read emails, and take breaks by surfing the internet, watching videos, and checking social media. It may feel like a mental break, but it’s actually putting extra strain on our eyes.”
So, what can we do about it? Dr. Richardson suggests adjusting the angle of your computer screen to be 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level. And remember to take regular breaks from screens – at least 5 to 10 minutes away from any monitors every hour of work. Your eyes will thank you for it!
Working from home has its ups and downs, especially when it comes to our mental health. And while it’s easy to notice the physical effects of long hours in front of a computer, the impact on our minds is often less tangible. Enter Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, Professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University, who has taken on the challenge of exploring the effects of remote work on our mental well-being.
According to Dr. Khubchandani, our homes and work environments are often mismatched, leading to disruptions in our daily routines and less human interaction. “In most cases, homes aren’t designed to be offices,” he explains. “And the differences, no matter how small, can have a significant impact on our mental health.”
Longer work hours and a lack of set schedules can also take a toll. “In the office, everyone adheres to official working hours, but at home, it’s a different story,” says Dr. Khubchandani. “The lack of structure can lead to less socialization and a higher risk of mental health problems.”
But it’s not all bad news. Some participants in Dr. Khubchandani’s study reported improved health after starting to work from home, thanks to more control over their daily routines and healthier habits, like cooking meals at home instead of eating out. However, the lack of workplace health services and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weight gain and worsen existing health problems.
So, what’s the bottom line? While remote work has its benefits, it’s important to be mindful of the impact it may have on our mental and physical health. Take breaks, stay active, and make time for socialization. Your mind and body will thank you!
In the end...
Finally, the debate on telecommuting and its impact on productivity may be moot. Researchers agree that with the right setup, working from home can actually boost worker efficiency.
But, is productivity all that matters? Absolutely not! On the one hand, it’s important to be productive and efficient in today’s fast-paced and competitive world. On the other hand, our health should always come first.
When it comes to working from home, it’s crucial to be mindful of both our physical and mental well-being. We can easily get consumed by endless tasks, deadlines, and self-criticism, and forget to prioritize rest and a healthy lifestyle. Don’t compromise your health for work, it’s simply not worth it.