We now live in a world where ‘working from home’ is becoming the new norm, far more so than only a few years ago when the idea of being able to work from home was an ideal some dared only to dream of.
However, with the turn of the pandemic, there is now a great deal of people making home offices their actual offices, with spare rooms, dining tables and lounge rooms filled with a combination of homewares and office stationery, paperwork and laptops.
Are we really living the charmed life being able to work from home, or are we now creating no visible line between being at home and being at work?
The new norm in Australia: Work-from-home
According to a survey conducted by The University of Sydney on the increase of working from home post-COVID, shows more Australians:
- Want to work remotely an average of two days per week
- 75% of workers think employers will support future work from home plans
The survey also found that across all industries, 1 in 5 employees worked from home regularly before the pandemic, but during the pandemic the number of work from home days almost tripled for employees in sales, clerical and administration work, while it doubled for managerial positions.
The numbers show that working from home is a term most workers and employers are now well-acquainted with, but is it beneficial to staff?
Isolation and a lack of socialisation
A global study by Qualtrics published in April 2020, suggested that working from home was actually creating social isolation and a decline in mental health, with:
- 44.4% of those now working from home saying their mental health has declined
Living through a pandemic is certainly part of the reason employees struggled, however the lack of workplace socialisation and isolation is also at play.
Respondents from the survey who said their mental health had declined were asked what had made the biggest impact on that decline, and the top five reasons were:
- More anxiety (24.0%)
- More stress (20.1%)
- Worry about losing their job (14.2%)
- Being less busy (8.6%)
- Challenges of working from home (8.5%)
The study of more than 2,000 employees in Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US, was taken during the height of the pandemic, but what about post-pandemic?
Statistics show that working from home post-pandemic is still having detrimental effects on staff.
According to the Australian Psychological Society, working from home has been associated with a range of detrimental outcomes. Some of those are decreased social interaction, difficulties psychologically detaching from work, tendency to overwork, stress, depression, and anxiety.
The association also claimed working from home may lead to overworking that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. Through the power of technology, we can always access work. This can blur the boundaries between work and home life. According to recent research by Roy Morgan, most Australians who work from home at least some of the time experience greater difficulties switching off than those who don’t work from home.
Virtual meetings and cyber security at home
A study by Twingate on remote employees, found staff were reporting feelings of ‘burnout’, with 45% of employees reporting attending more meetings during the pandemic than when working in the office.
The survey found on average, employees attended 3 video calls a day – that amounts to about 7 hours spent on video calls each week. It also found that:
- 40% of employees have experienced mental exhaustion from video calls while working remotely
- 59% of employees felt more cyber secure working in-office compared to at home
- 1 in 10 employees had their video calls hacked while working remotely
So with virtual meetings now also playing a huge role in working from home arrangements, the question begs: does it improve staff productivity?
While business continuity and productivity have broadly remained unchanged, according to a survey by Microsoft, business leaders are reporting a decrease in innovation around core products and services. Why? They say one likely cause is that workers report feeling more distant from company culture, less close-knit to teams and less collaborative.
The work-life balance
When it comes to ensuring a healthy work-life balance, getting it right can be difficult. According to a survey conducted by Indeed, which asked over 1,000 Australian workers and 252 Australian employers about working from home.
It found that:
- two out of five Australians agreed that the lines between work and personal life have become permanently blurred
While it’s uncertain working from home will be the new norm, it’s quite certain that it has profound effects on the workforce.