With COVID-19 changing the way many of us work, multiple studies have attempted to determine whether the negatives of working from home outweigh the positives.
In fact, many businesses now announce a more permanent shift towards flexible working, and working from home, with Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels declaring that “in 2020 and beyond, most organizations are going to be transforming into a completely cloud-based environment.”
People are getting back to their normal lives. But does a “normal life” mean coming back to the office? That’s up for debate.
Workers at AT&T say they are being forced to return to the office early and have started a Change.org petition to make their company’s pandemic work-from-home policies permanent.
Apple employees, upset with their company’s return-to-office orders, have launched a petition saying Apple has risked stifling diversity and staff wellbeing by restricting their ability to work remotely.
The entire situation of the COVID pandemic had given employees the leverage of working from home and being remotely monitored, the free hand to start and end the day and respective work without having to follow the traditional 9-5 cycle.
It had come as a boon and blessing to most employees.
Why would people continue to work from home?
Work-from-home had come with its own set of advantages and comfort zones that most employees had yearned for a very long time.
Working from home enables employees to sleep more, take rest and perform exercises that otherwise would have been a challenge due to time crunch.
It was seen that employees working from home had drastically increased their productivity than what they were able to provide while working from the office since a lot of time and energy went behind commuting, getting ready, and completing the daily household chores was saved eventually.
Working remotely and being able to work from any part of the world undoubtedly paved the way to attract and hire top talents in the company.
With no restrictions on the geographical location of employees which earlier would not have been possible during recruitments where candidates were asked to shift from base locations, which later led to either rejecting good job offers or letting go of opportunities to work in dream companies.
Shifting to the work-from-home model has acted as a huge financial benefit for all the employees, especially the outstation ones who migrated back to their hometowns.
A huge saving on the food and accommodation part was versioned amongst employees and this particular category of employees stressed more the continuation and extension of the work-from-home policies.
The pre-pandemic scenarios were different where employees had to compromise either on household chores or office work, shuffle and juggle between family commitments and meet the deadlines of presentations creating a not-so-great work-life balance.
With work-from-home being adopted by companies because of the COVID-19 situation, a good work-life balance was noticed amongst employees who gradually stopped grumbling of excess workload and failing to fulfil other important personal tasks.
Since work from home enables employees to spend most of their time with family members, the need for taking regular holidays for any special occasion such as birthdays or anniversaries, or for that matter any festival had gradually lessened, which in a way helped in increasing productivity, maintaining a work-life balance and also keep employees happy and satisfied.
JPMorgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, has publicly complained about remote work and Zoom, which he refers to as “management by Hollywood Squares”.
And unlike the Apple employees, Jamie Dimon believes that returning to the office will “aid diversity”.
Elon Musk has jumped into the debate, telling his employees that he’s happy for them to work from home, as long as they have worked 40 hours in the office.
A Stanford economist says that working from home is fueling growth at companies around the world and other studies support his claim, with one finding that 77% of workers reported increased productivity when operating remotely.
However, there are other reports that conclude that those who work full-time at home are 70% less productive than those who don’t work from home.
Why are people willing to return to work?
One study from the American Psychiatric Association found that a majority of employees working from home “say they experienced negative mental health impacts, including isolation, loneliness, and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day”.
“Working from home is slowly killing me. I’ve gotten lazy and antisocial. It feels like I wake up, go to the next room, work, log off, go back to the next room, rinse and repeat. I don’t feel like myself and feel very emotionless,” writes a software engineer at Amazon.
Some employees like to keep a strict distinction between professional and personal lives and do not bring home any office work and vice versa, but with work from home as the new normal, space has been diluted, hampering it.
With work interfering in personal lives and home distractions entering the workplace, it becomes a concern for many to keep things sorted and segregated and so, demand for returning to the office has been seen majorly from this section of employees.
Many employees for whom face-to-face guidance from mentors and managers had acted extremely beneficial in the past have now been kept away from the office, disabling them to achieve their goals in the manner that they had been able to pre-pandemic.
Working from home had also toyed with the self-confidence of performing better.
The switch from the office to working from home had a very negative impact on the mental health of most employees since there had been a sudden stop in the daily routine of rushing to work, meeting colleagues, team catch-ups at the cafeteria, and most importantly, physically being present in the comfort of the workplace was compromised with work-from-home becoming the new normal.
Work-from-home has come with its set of advantages, and the problems too cannot be ignored, the major part of it involving the poor connectivity and internet issues in several parts of the country.
However, the internet services had been actively upgraded and advanced during the COVID pandemic situation due to a surge in the demand, yet many employees face severe internet connectivity issues, barring them from smooth easy work-from-home tasks.