3 reasons why work-from-home cannot be the ‘new normal’

Much has been said about working from home as the ‘new normal’, but the author takes a contrarian view and argues why WFH will not be sustainable in the long run.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in economies, businesses and impacted the lives of individuals psychologically and physically. Working from home (WFH) has been the most rational option for professionals and organisations given the mandate of social distancing to curb the spread of the virus.

However, after months of being under lockdown and glued to their homes, employees are experiencing fatigue. The WFH novelty has worn off. We must understand that it can be a desirable option, but it cannot replace an office set-up.

Here’s why WFH cannot be the new normal:

Workspace challenges

Every employee has a different situation at home. Most face a high level of physical and psychological discomfort owing to WFH. Employees are experiencing the strain on emotional and physical health. Bad postures and elongated work hours have frustrated many in their effort to focus and remain productive. Research has revealed that most remote workers do not have an ideal set-up at home for work and are not able to create one easily.

In absence of ergonomic options, employees are forced to use dining tables, couches, and beds as workspaces. Distractions from other members of the family, absence of a work environment along with commitment to household chores have increased the strain on employees. It is imperative to understand that ergonomic seating and effective work tools contribute to productivity, decrease strain from poor postures and increase concentration – an environment that is difficult to create at home for long periods.

Lack of creative collaboration

Some forms of work are easily done at home but when productivity is in relation to creativity, innovation, and transformation, they are difficult to measure and accomplish virtually. Daylong virtual meetings seem to be exhausting for employees. Teams that could work together easily now have to rely on virtual interactions, which has become strenuous.

A lesser-known fact is that the brain tends to work harder to understand and grasp attention on all these virtual interactions. When the attention span is low, and there are umpteen distractions, focusing is difficult.

It has become necessary to pay attention to facial expressions, voice tone, body language, etc. during virtual meetings. Though travelling to work can be tiring, dealing with extended virtual offices causes tremendous mental strain. Sitting in the same spot for long hours tires body and mind and does not help in offering creative and collaborative solutions.

The virtual environment restricts the flow of normal conversation and access to body language — both of which are critical behaviours for innovation. The concentrated efforts and collaboration required are difficult to achieve in a virtual scenario. An office lends the perfect set-up for employees to work together, brainstorm, ideate and share information with each other more effortlessly.

Work-life balance

Initially, most of us focused on the benefits of WFH – no commuting, comfortable clothes and more time with family and pets.

Employees around the world are realising that their average workday has increased dramatically since the onset of remote work following the COVID-19 outbreak. The long work hours have started blurring the lines between work and home. People struggle to distinguish weekends from weekdays owing to the monotonous daily routine.

Travelling for leisure, short trips or socialising with friends and family help employees separate work from their personal lives.

Despite the various benefits of WFH that may appeal to many, it is not a sustainable long-term solution. Organisations must now adopt norms that ensure employee well-being and safety at office without compromising productivity. A new approach to the workplace is needed – one that is compelling and safe for employees, and smart for the business.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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