Working from home: love it or hate it?
This year has seen many of us dramatically change the way we work, and at the moment, we are unsure as to whether this will become the new norm. The most significant changes are in terms of working from home, and an even bigger reliance on electronic forms of communication.
While many of us have relished the opportunity to cut down commute times, spend the day braless and in sweatpants (goodbye iron!) and snuggle with furry companions during the day (dogs couldn’t be happier, and cats want their space back!), some have found it a challenge to adjust.
Many people are reporting that while they enjoy the ability to work on a more flexible schedule when at home — hello, lunchtime workouts, or, in my case, naps — they also find that their work-life balance is significantly challenged. They don’t have to leave work to pick up the kids, there is no obvious mass exodus from the office to signify the day is over, and maybe it is easier to procrastinate in the morning, then compensate for the guilt by working late. Regardless of the reasons, it seems clear that it is much harder to separate work and home, when work is at home.
We are social beings, and the extraverts among us, in particular, need the energy of others. If you are used to working in a team, have work that is linked to others’ work, or even just worked in a space with others, the adjustment to lone working can be very challenging.
Even the social connectedness of sharing pleasantries in the staff kitchen can be important for some, but if you work in a team setting or feel like your work depends on others, you may feel a bit, well, disconnected. What’s the point of your widget, without the other widgets?
I have also observed an increase in imposter syndrome, which may be directly related to the reduction in feedback; those micro-communications in the office that all is well, and you are on track. For some, working in relative isolation creates too much uncertainty and we see increases in anxiety and self-doubt. Ultimately, this can be deskilling and demotivating.
My kitchen is not an office
We’ve all seen the hilarious clip of the BBC live interview where Professor Kelly’s wife scrambles in to grab the kids who have stumbled on to the scene. Well, yep, for many people, there are kids, animals, relatives and neighbours all trying to coexist in a small space and be productive, or possibly just derail you from your focus! You may not even have space for all the monitors, let alone have children that can magically entertain themselves for hours.
Paradise versus war zone
It may sound idyllic, getting to spend more time with your loved ones, but let’s face it, they say “absence makes the heart grow fonder” for a reason. Even if you don’t have a difficult relationship, spending all of your time together is going to be taxing. Niggles can become battles. Minor irritations, which may have been forgotten after a day at work, now get to sit in the atmosphere. Add to that, conflict over who is responsible for childcare, and who has the most pressing deadlines, and it can be a hotbed of resentment. Yes, couples are struggling, and no, it isn’t just those that were already having problems.
What can employers do
Employers can help by being aware of the challenges of homeworking. Scheduling regular check-ins with staff, actively promoting team connections, and creating an environment where it is safe to talk about challenges are all important. Ensuring staff have access to some kind of employee assistance is more crucial than ever. Solstice offers a Corporate Wellness Programme that can support employers and their employees in thinking about the challenges of working from home. This includes employee assistance, as well as team-building, psychological support for teams, and helping employers reflect on their systems and processes.
• Gemma Harris, ClinPsyD, is Director of Corporate Wellness at Solstice, and writes on Instagram as @theexdoctor