The covid-19 pandemic has changed the way millions of people around the world work. Working from home rather than commuting to an office space has become the new normal and is a trend that will likely remain common long into the future for years after the pandemic is finished.
There are some key benefits to working from home in terms of the flexibility it provides and the money saved that is usually spent on public transport or fuel. Despite this, there are also some negative side-effects which mean it is important for employees to take care of their mental health whilst they are stuck in their home.
Many people working from a home which they share with other family members often suffer from “time elasticity illusion”. This phenomenon happens when other people assume the worker can spend time on household tasks without it having an impact on the amount of time the employee spends on their paid work. This involuntary overlap of household and work commitments often leads to fatigue.
It is therefore crucial for individuals who are working from home to set-up a dedicated, distraction-free work space where they can foster deeper cognitive processing and stay focussed for longer periods of time. Having a separate room to work from can help separate work hours from non-work hours. This is extremely beneficial as many people have found that there is a blurring of professional and personal space within their home. This has resulted in some employees struggling to switch off from work. This consequently in some cases has negatively impacted their quality of sleep.
Craig Dangar from C&D Restructure and Taxation Advisory says that “working from home has been challenging in terms of the isolation and the lack of day to day interaction, as businesses have identified that there has been a knowledge gap. For businesses that have adapted work from home occupancy cost and productivity has been improved, especially small businesses that have been able to reduce operating costs” says Mr. Dangar.
People with office jobs often sit for up to 80% of the time during their working day and on average manage to walk over 3,600 steps per day. This is often due to the opportunities for activity to talk to their other colleagues or to go out to a café for lunch if they work in the CBD area. Without the opportunity to cycle to work or walk to get lunch it is important for workers to make sure that they are remaining active and still getting a daily dose exercise and movement.
The loss of a 30-minute commute which is often referred to as the “buffer zone” deprives workers of an opportunity to mentally prepare for a big day at the office or a chance to unwind in the evening. It is advised that people who are working from home incorporate transitional periods into their daily schedule to substitute their daily commute. This might be as simple as walking around the block for 10 minutes or practicing meditation before they cook dinner.
On a positive note, working from home can create opportunities for employees to engage in deep work. Being at home especially if they are alone means that there are less opportunities for them to be distracted from their work. This consequently has the potential to help employees fully engage with their work when they are working, and be more psychologically present with their family when they are not working.
Individuals who work from home can also integrate their work time into their family time to benefit the entire family. This could be achieved by using a work break to read a story to their child or to play with their pets or help their child with their homework.
Unfortunately, not all employees have close contact with their family members and work may serve as a huge part of their social life. Many employees who are stuck working from home often say that they miss having conversations in the hallway with their colleagues. For individuals who are facing this dilemma, Zoom meetings are currently the closest thing they have to social interactions during the covid-19 pandemic.
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