Working from home certainly has its benefits: it allowed for many businesses to continue operating through a global pandemic, it provides location independence, reduced overhead costs, and many research firms have cited increased productivity and performance from employees. But as we continue to normalize swapping suits and ties for hoodies and comfy clothes, it’s important to acknowledge the downsides that come with working from home..
For the employee…
Isolating: Working from home can be very isolating. Because employees are not in the same physical space as their coworkers, they won’t have the same level of social interaction that they would if they were in an office setting. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection from the team.
Distractions: It can be difficult to separate work from home-life when you are working in your living room or kitchen. Household chores and other responsibilities can be distracting and make it difficult to focus on work.
Lack of work-life balance: Blurring the lines between home and work can make it difficult to set boundaries and fully switch off after work.This can lead to an unhealthy work-life balance with people working longer hours or finding it difficult to “clock out”.
For the employer…
There are a variety of challenges that come along with remote work for the employer. For one – management challenges. Managing a team of people who are all in different locations and sometimes in different time zones can be very challenging. Technology issues are prevalent and would be avoided altogether if in the office. Let’s say you are trying to have a meeting, but one of your employees’ WiFi is down… or your laptop is not working, and you can’t join the zoom call all together. Being in-person in the office allows for a manager to simply walk over to his or her team’s cubicles/desks to check in.
And arguably the biggest concern for employers with remote employees: Are your employees actually working? It’s important to understand that today young professionals have an “edge” when it comes to technology because they grew up with it at such a young age. And with this comes the reality that kids are smart and will figure out a way to “beat the system”, so to speak. Here are a few anecdotes to explain why many CEO’s and high level executives have a disgruntled tone when it comes to remote work and have a preference for their employees to be in the office.
Many of the companies who allow for remote work have different tech systems in place to “effectively” monitor that their employees are, in fact, actively working on their laptops. For example, apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams will denote when someone is actively on their computer. My friend who works remotely in sales in New York City has managed to figure out a way to balance a pen against her computer screen and the mouse pad so that it will say that she is active when in reality she’s sitting on a beach in the Hamptons or laying in bed watching Netflix after a night out. All the while, her boss sees a green light next to her name, and assumes that she is actively working.
From Jim Baker, the CEO of Sumus: “In April of 2020, I was golfing, and an acquaintance had joined our tee sheet. Golf exploded during the pandemic in NC, and just getting on a tee sheet was a supreme effort. As we were playing our round in midafternoon, our acquaintance, who we shall call Kevin, jumped on a zoom call. Kevin was a senior sales rep for his company and was responsible for managing other team members. He proceeded to mount his phone on his pushcart and played all 9 holes while on a zoom call. I asked him how he did it, and he commented that “turning the camera off and muting” were his new best friends. As I observed him during our round, I kept thinking that he is not fully “in” on the call as there is no way he can listen and contribute effectively while lining up shots, looking for lost balls, and dealing with all the background noise. I also noticed during the spring and summer of 2020 our tee sheet was booked from 8-5pm Monday through Friday, whereas prior to the pandemic, when people went to work in the office, the tee sheet during the week was empty.”
“A roommate of my niece was hired out of school to work for a software company as a marketing administrator. She has been employed for 2 years and has never been to her office which is located 2 miles away from her apartment. She starts work at 10, takes a 2-hour lunch and finishes around 6pm. The hours she is being compensated for are 8-5pm with a one hour lunch. The most important part of her day is making sure she gets a workout in during her 2-hour lunch break. As a new employee, her employer has basically trained her to be as unproductive as possible. In essence, she is supreme at beating the system without doing a full undistracted day of work.”
And in my opinion, the best indicator of what remote work really means for young professionals is reflected by one of amazon’s best selling products since the pandemic: the mouse jiggler. The mouse jiggler is a genius product. It is an application you attach to your laptop that will move your mouse to fool these apps and make it look like you’re doing work when you’re actually not. Maybe you want to get some chores done around the house while you’re supposed to be at your desk. Or maybe you’ve got a boss who expects you to sit at your computer even though you’re done with your work so you’re left twiddling your thumbs. Solution to the problem = Buy the mouse jiggler, you can get the things you’d like to get done while still being compensated for “working”.