Work from home: How alternating home and office could affect us in different ways post-pandemic
We might be heading towards a teleworking-dominant culture, as employers are coming to terms with the changing social landscape. Find out what’s at stake for different types of workers.
While we’re still in the trenches of Covid-19 and uncertainty is reigning, many companies have adapted to telecommuting. Many are manifestly planning to implement a hybrid work rhythm – alternating between home and office – beyond the pandemic’s timeline.
It didn’t take long for employers to realise that many different types of work can be done remotely given room to work and a functioning Internet connection. It seems certain that we will be seeing the way we work change in significant ways following this major cultural shift, but nothing is clear-cut as of yet.
As much as working from home can be convenient and comfortable, it remains that it is simply not a possibility for a lot of us on the one hand; and on the other, the long-term effects of working in isolation or near-isolation have not been felt or fully understood.
Working from home: Hurdles facing service-focused jobs
It’s vital to take into account the importance of building and maintaining a social infrastructure for workers whose jobs don’t allow them to work remotely – namely individuals in the retail, transportation, and maintenance industries, among many others.
As more and more types of jobs will be moving into alternating between working from home for example 3 days a week and coming into the office the remaining 2, people have been finding more time to take charge of their own needs by cooking, baking, maintaining themselves and their home, and even taking up new hobbies.
As demand for these types of services decreases steadily, the concern is that of dealing with the aftermath of this changing culture around labour, and possibly facing higher rates of unemployment.
However, there does seem to be an upside to this entire situation. Some individuals whose job is to provide a service have been able to successfully make the move online, particularly those that are giving special classes in cooking, fitness, and even academic subjects. Still, this leaves an obvious gap in the overall group of blue-collar workers and doesn’t present a solution to those that simply cannot transfer their work to Zoom.
Work from home: Changes in productivity and the availability of social networks
Second, there seem to be obvious drawbacks even for those of us whose job allows us to work from home on a full-time basis.
Two distinct questions have surfaced:
- How will the quality of our work be affected by working remotely?
- How will we be affected by a diminished volume of social interaction which, for many, was primarily provided at their workplace?
These are serious considerations, and even more so considering we are not yet aware of the long-term implications of such changes.
Sitting alone in front of a computer screen is no replacement for the engaging and interactive environment of the office. It’s not a stretch to assume that over time, the quality of the work we’re able to produce will suffer the consequences of the lack of interaction, as we take a blow to our productivity, creativity, and willingness to keep working without a motivating surrounding environment.
This can result in burnouts and a feeling of isolation, which will likely create a vicious cycle that can only be remedied by restoring a culture of exchange, discussion, and real-life communication – at least to a certain extent.
A hybrid home/office model can be useful. Some employees will find that they function better when they have in-person meetings and discussions, while others will thrive on organising their thoughts on their own and in silence. While both of these options are possible in an office, only one is feasible in an apartment.
Work from home: Some positive aspects
Finally, it would be disingenuous to disregard all the good that has been brought by making some types of jobs remote. There have been many benefits for individuals with disabilities for example.
A typical 9-5 job is not realistic for a lot of people, as they may find it difficult to make the trip to the office, stay seated behind a desk for most of the day 5 days a week, or focus in a crowded and sometimes overstimulating workplace.
Therefore, for certain groups of people, making remote work a possibility may end up giving them employment opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
The bottom line
The bottom line is, we don’t know enough to predict the specifics of what will happen and how our work culture will transform, although it’s safe to say that we know it will change significantly.
It’s important to look beyond one’s own working conditions to try to see the potentially detrimental effects that transitioning to a model that heavily relies on remote work could have on many different groups of workers while appreciating the things it did accomplish. Perhaps a hybrid home/office rhythm could be feasible for some types of jobs and could even present an ideal, equally convenient and stimulating alternative to the previously established models of work.