Working From Home
Written by: Irene Lai and Lucas Alvim
A large-scale transition from traditional collocated work to remote work according to the Harvard business review began in the 1970s with the adoption of new policies that allowed the employee to not go to the office every day as the gas prices had increased thanks to the 1973 oil crises, making more people work from home, shared office spaces or community locations as coffee shops and public libraries. In the 2000s the adoption of WFH increased thanks to the creation of personal computers, the internet, cell phones, email. Covid time has surely influenced us and our life in many ways. The “Working from Home” (WFH) possibility is for sure one of the most significant revolutions that has been showed up during the pandemic time and after that. Not that it had not been used before 2020, but the rate of home-based employment had been significantly increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, making most professionals work remotely.
People were content that they were spared from long, tiresome, and stressful commutes. Without the constant and sometimes unnecessary meetings, for instance, they discovered that they could work more effectively with their laptops far from their office.
Plus, the time spent at home allowed those who have sick or COVID-19-affected family members to take care of those who needed care and attention. Of course, not for everybody was a good thing. In fact, the possibility of working from home still has some downsides and as an example, it would limit direct interactions between coworkers. However, the Internet has provided a solution to the issue since people from all around the world can easily communicate and collaborate with one another over distances. Another problem is that some people could be sidetracked from their task by unrelated events. This necessitates that workers have a truly clear understanding of what is appropriate and inappropriate for their paid positions. The goal of this essay is to highlight all the benefits that WFH might have if it used wisely and with farsightedness.
WFH – A smart way of working
Since the pandemic became a reality in our life, a new concept of working suddenly entered our lives. This has been called “Working from home” in English and yet more positively “Smart Working” in Italian language. Indeed, further the fact that Working from Home is a lot more comfortable for lots of people there are so many real benefits that working remotely can bring to everyone (organizations, people, and society) and they could be listed:
- Economic benefits: considering gas, transportation cost reductions, parking spaces, and lunches;
- Time-related benefits: such the restoration of “life” hours’ time reduction. Working from home saves time because there is no need to travel around the city or outside of town, and there is no nighttime traffic;
- Qualitative benefits: minimizing the pressures from work and being closer to the family.
Beyond the necessity to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 disease, there were (and there still are) indeed some smart ideas about working far from the office. The most recent results from the Smart Working Observatory of the Polytechnic of Milan School of Management for 2019 further support these dynamics. According to the research that the Smart Working Observatory of the School of Management of the Polytechnic of Milan made in 2019, the first factors that still drive different companies to adopt working from home after the pandemic are a better ability to balance personal and professional obligations, increased organizational wellbeing, and an increase in productivity and quality of work. Even in public administrations, where structured remote projects have doubled in size in a year, the advantages for workers are becoming more tangible. The study indicated that the enhancement of work-life balance (46%) and the increase in employee engagement and motivation (35%), are the two primary advantages of adopting WFH. The study demonstrates also how Working from Home has also raised employees’ levels of involvement and satisfaction compared to colleagues who have worked traditionally (33% against 21% of other employees). Plus, people who were interviewed have been asked how often they would like to have full working days at home and how often they were planning to work remotely. The response was (not surprisingly) positive and it could confirm the employers plan and desire to be able to work from home. (Barrero et al. “Why working from home will stick”)
The percentage of workers who choose to work from home even if they would have the possibility to work in the office is so rising. People who work from home) expressed higher levels of satisfaction with their work’s organization (31% versus 19% of other workers), the relationships among their coworkers (23% versus 19% of others), and the relationship with their superiors (25% versus 19% of other workers). They claim to be prouder of the accomplishments of the company they work for (71% compared to 62%) and more satisfied with their work (76% compared to 55% of other employees). They also claim to wish to stay with the company longer (71% compared to 56%). However, there are some doubts as well concerning how virtual offices may influence job satisfaction in terms of communication and interpersonal relationships. The home environment limits those who work remotely since they would miss activities and interactions that help to fit into the organization. Working in a traditional office promotes better culture transfer, stronger social bonds at work and more information to communicate with coworkers.
Therefore, many employers still prefer going to the actual office. Even so, remote working can have social benefits too: it can increase time spent with family easing stress and overload due to work. Teleworkers in this way are better able to empower themselves about both corporate and personal goals and to be flexible in how they organize their workdays. Plus, remote working also makes it more possible to think of working in more places than one, because it is easier to arrange distances. Moreover, WFH means that teleworkers may work easily from their house on the other side of the world. Last but not least, not forgetting that there is one more advantage that should be considered and it affects everyone. According to the Politecnico analysis, WFH reduces CO2 emissions by around 135 kg per 40 km of work-related travel. What is smarter than that?
How does the employer take advantage of the Working From Home situation
Working from home is not only good and wanted by the employee, but also by the employer, as the employer wants to keep its workers happy, and not only that, but companies can benefit from it. Companies save money by downgrading their office spaces as there is no need for so spacious offices as there are fewer workers at the time in the office. So during the covid-19 pandemic the company Yelp started to sublease some of their office spaces thanks to the augmenting number of workers leaving the office to WFH, they predicted that by 2024 they will be saving around 10 to 12milion dollars per year (Broughton, 2021). Increasing the motivation of the employees, as already mentioned in this essay, when working from home employees are 35% more motivated to work. The pool of talent increases, as the factor of location, isn’t considered anymore when applying and accepting jobs, the employer can find workers with already specialized skills, therefore saving on training. Reduction on absenteeism, because someone who has a long journey to work is a lot more likely to call in sick than someone who just has to turn on his laptop. Time is saved, not only on the commute as was mentioned earlier in this essay but also on lateness, time wasted gossiping, and long coffee breaks, making the time that the employee works more effective. Less distractions as office politics, which happens in every office, don’t matter if big or small. Employees become more loyal as their boss shows trust in them by permitting them to work from home, consequently making the employee happier, and when an employee is happy, he tends to search less for new jobs, saving the company money on hiring new workers. Meeting online tends to go quicker than in person, in online you tend to go straight to the point, unlike on person where you take 10 minutes to start the meeting and usually you go over time.
With all of these advantages also come challenges like the mental health of employees. This was already a problem before the covid-19 pandemic, with the World Health Organization showing that in 2019 before the pandemic an estimated 1 in 8 persons was living with a mental disorder (2022, “World mental health day 2022”, World health organization ). During the first year of the pandemic, the World Health Organization estimates that there was an increase of 25% in people suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders. According to a survey made by the Royal Society for Mental Health regarding the mental and physical health impacts of home working during covid-19 67% of the surveyed people said that they feel less connected to their colleagues and 56% said they found it harder to switch off, however only one third (34%) was offered support to their mental health from their employer (2021, “Survey reveals the mental and physical health impacts of home working during Covid-19″, Royal society for public health). With the trend of people starting to have the opportunity to work more from home, it is important that they take care of their mental health, and that the employer also takes notice of that.
Detachment. Detachment is a key element of researching your mental energy. Detachment is the act of mentally switching off work during the time of, not engaging in any thoughts or activities related to work. While working in a normal office, the act of leaving the office space already detaches you from work and the commute home gives you time to transition from work to home. But while working from home, theoretically after you close your laptop, you are off work. While still in the same setting as during work.
Some ways of improving and maintaining your mental health while working from home are:
- Set up a space dedicated to work, as distraction-free as possible.
- Set up a schedule, focusing on breaks and work-focused times.
- Reserve a dedicated time for answering email as you would do if you worked in an office so that you don’t have the temptation of answering a work-related email after work hours.
- Try to establish a routine for how to begin your morning.
- Set up a dedicated time to work and a dedicated time for leisure and it is important to try to be strict.
- Don’t set personal goals such as “I will stop working once I finish this task”, is better to set goals focused on which time will you stop.
- Avoid working from your bedroom, try to work in a different room than the one where you spend most of your free time so that you don’t have any reminders of work, like on you go to sleep, and if you must work from your bedroom, try to pack away all work-related things once you are finished.
- Try to engage in activities after work that capture your full attention as cooking or exercise.
- Refrain from all work-related communication during free time.
Employers’ responsibilities on mental health
In 2021 the consultancy firm Willis Towers Watson released a Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey conducted in October, where they surveyed 322 U.S employers with 100 or more employees about they expectations for 2022 and among the findings were that 86% of employers said mental health, stress and burnout were still a priority. 49% however had not formally articulated a well-being strategy for their workers and only 26% had adopted a well-being strategy. (Miller, 2022). This data shows that employers are aware that improving and maintaining the mental health of the employees is a priority, but only 26% of the surveyed employees had already adopted a strategy that would tackle that. Some ways that employers can promote mental health is by analyzing their current well-being strategy and trying to make some improvements or changes such as redesigning their employee assistance programs benefits and expanding services. Promoting the usage of mobile apps for physical well-being through friendly competitions that would have as a prize some extra vacation days for example. Acknowledge that mental health is important and create a workshop for example to educate the employees about it. Change the leave policy, most employees may fear taking time off for mental illness, however this fear makes they problems bigger and continues to affect their work, companies should understand that stressed people may harm themselves by working to much with their condition and also can negatively affect they working environment, companies could have in addition to usual leaves, have stress leaves and mental health days to make sure that the employees fell their mental health prioritized.
To sum up, the Covid-19 revolution changed how people work around the world and sparked a discussion about whether working from home is preferable to working in an office. Considering the previously made arguments, WFH is currently the best option, and it should be encouraged even having the mental health challenges, the benefits overcome the negatives. Flexibility and productivity are only a few of those benefits. The reality is that the pandemic has forced us to reconsider our priorities for the better and make sure that we are giving our loved ones’ well-being as well as our careers top priority. The most critical factors that encourage firms and public administrations to adopt remote working are a better balance between personal and professional life, increased organizational well-being and an increase in productivity and quality of work. Of course, it is critical to consider both the professional and personal aspects of WFH when examining the advantages for employees rather than just the professional aspect. Unquestionably good facts include also among other things the possibility to work internationally and to focus on more projects and interests, for example working for more than one firm. The research that the Smart Working Observatory of the School of Management of the Polytechnic of Milan made in 2019 showed how workers are satisfied and content about the remote working. “People are making a conscious choice to work from home, rather than just out of necessity,” says Kim Parker, Pew’s director of social trends research. The key to working remotely successfully is adopting a mindset that changes the employee’s function and it is crucial to establish a proper boundary between individuals’ social life and work-life balance. If the employer does not fail in this, social connections at home help actually individuals to relax and enjoy their work better and in a healthier way.
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Barrero, Jose Maria, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis, 2021. “Why working from home will stick,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 28731.https://wfhresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/WFHResearch_updates_September2022.pdf. Read 18.09.2022
Broughton, 2021, “Companies cutting office space predict long-term savings”, The wall street journal “Companies Cutting Office Space Predict Long-Term Savings – WSJ” Read 13/10/2022
Indeed Editorial Team, “Interview Question: “Why Do You Want to Work From Home?” https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/why-do-you-want-to-work-from-home. Read 25.09.2022
Liu, J. “61% of people working from home are doing so because they want to, even though their office is open “https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/18/people-are-working-from-home-out-of-preference-not-just-necessity.html. Read 25.09.202
Miller, 2022, “Employers identify workforce mental health priorities for 2022”, SHRM “Employers Identify Workforce Mental Health Priorities for 2022 (shrm.org)” Read 13/10/2022
RSPH (Royal society for public health), 2021, Survey reveals the mental and physical health impacts of home working during Covid-19, “ RSPH | Survey reveals the mental and physical health impacts of home working during Covid-19” Read 13/10/2022
“Smart working in Italia al tempo del COVID19: vantaggi, risultati e obiettivi per il futuro” https://www.whappy.it/smart-working-italia/. Read 11.09.2022
Stagno, G. “Lo Smart Working fa bene ai lavoratori. Ecco perché scegliere il lavoro agile”, 2019. https://www.forumpa.it/riforma-pa/smart-working/lo-smart-working-fa-bene-ai-lavoratori-ecco-perche-scegliere-il-lavoro-agile/#:~:text=I%20dati%202019%20dell’Osservatorio%20Smart%20Working,-A%20confermare%20queste&text=Secondo%20la%20ricerca%20i%20principali,coinvolgimento%20dei%20dipendenti%20(35%25). Read 13.09.2022.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2022, “World mental health day 2022” “World Mental Health Day 2022 (who.int)” Read 13/10/2022
The importance of mental health has become evident more than ever since the pandemic started. I especially gained some insights from the Detachment chapter. Thank you for the practical tips!