With an increasingly connected digital world, the demand for ‘work from home’ options are also increasing. The belief that it provides your employees a chance at good ‘work-life’ balance and can improve productivity is sometimes stretched too far. I’ve seen employees literally fighting for such options and also take it as a status symbol if they operate in this fashion. They brag about it not just in office but also to their friends and family. Does it really help?
Here is my take on factors which have a negative influence of a work from home culture. This after working and running a business from home for over 3 decades…
Affects Work-life balance – Actually your work-life balance can get adversely affected if you ‘work from home’ often. Those who have experienced this will find it hard to admit that the ‘myth’ that you will have more time for your family is totally false. In fact when you work from home, what you have done is carried your work home literally. Is that not what you were trying to avoid as it was coming in the way of your work life balance? There is a feeling in organizations that since you have been provided the ‘privilege’ you are always available to connect and discuss business. It ends up more a 24 hr. job with frequent interruptions (mistaken for breaks). It’s not just your employer but your family starts to feel that you are always available to spend time with them and for their needs. You end up getting stretched from both sides.
Affects Trust – While the work from home option demonstrates the organizations trust in the employee it at times becomes counterproductive. Managers start suspecting whether or not the employee is putting in 100% effort at home. There is a thought which lingers in the minds of the people who are at office about the quality of time spent by the homers on work related aspects. Myself and my business partner having over 3 decades of friendship and partnership have at times suspected each other of not spending enough time on business.
Affects Team camaraderie – When you do not meet people regularly and connect with them only via the digital world, the emotional engagement is missed. Conversations become more cryptic and to the point and you are always talking business. We all know that bonding happens in informal settings and non-business discussions amongst people. That’s why you find many organizations going for team outings to enhance employee engagement. While it helps to an extent but being a formally organized event does not have the necessary impact. It also cannot be a once or twice in a year event. Building bonds and relationships does not happen this way, it’s a long process and a continual one at that. And where do you think this is possible? – at workplace ofcourse!
Affects Motivation – It’s not easy to be self-motivated while it is a great thing to talk about. When you get to see is when you feel pumped up. This is the psychology from early childhood. Haven’t you found yourself wanting to get or desire something when you see others having it? When you see people enjoying, talking, being recognized, sharing in person it makes a hell a lot of difference. You feel motivated to be a part of the groups. It’s like the child sitting on the sidelines watching a group of children play and after sometime it is automatic that his motivation to jump into the play increases. No one likes to be on the sideline! Being alone at home can get on to your nerves like solitary confinement.
Affects Home – It’s no one’s fault and it’s not on purpose. Being home leads to feeling obligated to do more household chores because you’re “technically” home (as in, you’re physically in the house).
It starts with little things, like that Plumber who’s supposed to stop by between 1-5PM or the Courier which is to arrive at 11AM. It’s not a huge imposition, you’re already home. So, of course, you’ll be the point person on that task. Before you realize, you’re the point person for everything – finishing up what’s left of the dishes, being available for package deliveries, and (worst of all) being the babysitter when your child’s school declares a holiday on account of rain. Most of us don’t even realize this lopsided division of labor happening until it’s too late. Being an entrepreneur myself I can vouch for the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult for you to refuse at home. Your attempts at being assertive can be seen as non-cooperative and at times insensitive leading to relationship issues.
Affects Perception – I myself have been a victim of the perception that I am jobless and at home doing nothing. Many are still not able to comprehend that you can earn even working from home. The societal conditioning that you have to go someplace to work and spend may be 10 -12 hrs. really is at the bottom of such perceptions. People tend to take you for granted and load you with chores as they perceive that you don’t have any work and all the time in the world. They start to get on to your nerves after a point.
Interruptions – They are already one of the top reasons effecting time management at work, at home it gets multiplied many times over. Getting by the day without interruptions will be rare. People may unintentionally walk-in while you are on a call or trying to gesticulate while you are on a call effecting your concentration. We know how difficult it is to get back on track after you have derailed at work. Such derailments happen quite frequently at home as people at home are not bound by official rules of engagement. They feel that it is rightful of them to interrupt you at any time. Children may interrupt you at work as they find that you are always available at home. While many choose this option to take care of their children, they end up scolding them for frequently coming in the way of work. You will start to feel that you were better off at work than at home.
Procrastination – Work from home can lead to an increasing challenge of prioritization between the urgent and important. With frequent compromises being made and priorities shifting based on urgency, there may be a tendency to postpone work to the extent that you end up working late hours to make up for lost time.
Complacency – Since no one is observing you, the tendency to become complacent is very high. In the office you cannot laze around for long durations doing nothing, while this is not the case at home. This can negatively impact your productivity. All of us require a little bit of monitoring and control to help us stay on course.
There may be many more, but ‘work from home’ can lead to people violating your boundaries, and assuming that you are a hobbyist. Organizations must seriously consider whether it is really helping them. I’ve seen organizations struggling to revert to old ways of working after they realize that the work from home concept is not paying as much dividends as they expected. They are faced with resistance not just from the people who have already got into the comfort of working from home but also from the people who expect the ‘privilege’ sometime in the future.