The Covid-19 pandemic redefined workplaces with the work from home model becoming the norm across most sectors and industries. As businesses are slowly opening up, the long-term viability of the remote working model has become a pertinent question today.

We discuss some of the pros and cons of working from home in this article and why the hybrid model might be the most popular path for corporates in the future.

Advantages of the work from home model

According to the data collected by Global Workplace Analytics, 80% of the total sample of candidates said that they’d prefer working from home at least partially.

With technological advancements and constant connectivity, the need for being physically present in office every day for a fixed number of hours doesn’t seem like a reasonable option. Here are some advantages of working from home:

  • Better work-life balance:

The reduced commute time allows people to pursue hobbies and spend more time with their families. Many people have taken up music, art, or baking in their free time.

Employees looking after children, pets, or elderly feel that this is a more sustainable option for them.

  • Cost effective:

Employees save money by not commuting or spending money on restaurants, office parties etc.

Also, companies save on money in areas such as infrastructure, rent and utilities, cleaning services, and taxes. According to Global Workplace Analytics, six out of ten employers think that telecommuting helps in cost savings.

  • Safer and more time efficient

Besides the decline in financial and mental burdens, work from home also ensures greater safety for employees while saving a lot of their time. Many people in crowded cities spend over two hours in traffic every day. Almost 1.25 million people die every year worldwide due to traffic accidents.

  • More gender balanced approach

With the blurring of family lives and work lives in the remote working model, men are taking up more household responsibilities than before. Earlier, women would often have to opt to stay out of the workforce because of their family responsibilities.

With the current model of remote work, both men and women get better opportunities to pursue their careers while dividing the family and household chores between themselves.

According to reports, companies with remote working options tend to have more women in leadership roles. Women occupy only ~14% of top 5 leadership positions in S&P companies. The percentage is significantly higher in companies with remote work facilities.

  • Environment friendly

The decline in traveling to work leads to lesser carbon footprints both for an individual and for the organization at large. Based on the estimates of Global Workplace Analytics, even if employees worked from home for half the time, the reduction in greenhouse gas emission would be equivalent to taking the total workforce of New York City off the road.

 The remote working model has its fallouts, too 

Even though remote working has its advantages, and many employees seem to prefer it, the model is not free from setbacks. Here are some disadvantages of this model:

  • Decline in mental wellness

Work from home related stress and anxiety have shot up significantly since the onset of the pandemic.

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans by TELUS International, almost 75% of the respondents mentioned having struggled with anxiety at work because of pandemic-induced and other issues. Four out of five workers mentioned how they found it difficult to stop working in the evenings. While 50% of respondents said that they suffered from the lack of adequate sleep due to anxiety, around 45% mentioned feeling less than optimally healthy mentally while working from home.

There have been quite a few forces at play to make workers feel this way including but not limited to loss and grief over the death of loved ones, loss of jobs or the fear of losing jobs, anxiety about the uncertain future, survivor’s guilt, loneliness, and productivity shame.

  • Increased isolation and loss of control

Being at work brings with itself reasons to socialize and network with other people. It provides a distraction from ongoing worries or family problems. The organized office structure and fixed schedule provide some level of control in people’s hands when things around them seem to spin out of control.

  • Blurring of boundaries between work and home life

Psychologists say that even the small rituals of getting ready, commuting to work, getting back from work help demarcate the boundaries between work life and home life. This boundary has been blurred with remote work and a growing number of people are often working late and over the weekends.

  • Lack of motivation is widespread

The pandemic has robbed people from indulging in fun activities like going to movies, restaurants, gyms, etc. Hence, even if some workers don’t feel deep distress or depression, the continued lack of other forms of recreations have left them feeling demotivated and numb to some extent.

  • Less efficient, more time-consuming, and less secure

Many industry leaders feel that the face-to-face interactions and idea exchanges are more fruitful than the time-consuming video calls and remote meetings that inevitably lead to longer working hours.

Also, the lack of opportunities to exchange ideas and come up with new solutions are missing in the isolated model of working from home. Managing a team remotely can sometimes be emotionally overwhelming for managers spiralling into trust and micromanagement issues.

The remote model doesn’t support certain kinds of professions. Additionally, not everyone has the conducive atmosphere and space to work from their homes.

Data security issues and network issues are other factors that might hamper a smooth working environment.

Hybrid models could be the solution

Given the pros and cons of remote working and with the pandemic still going on, the hybrid model of working partly from home and partly from the office seems like the best possible option for most companies.

However, workspaces should be redesigned keeping in mind the safety standards that are important requisites in the post pandemic era. Social distancing and crowd management practices must assume top priority.

Office buildings will require infrastructure to support virtual meetings, touch free visitor management systems, and many other customizations that minimize human contact.

The HVAC systems need to be equipped with advanced filtration process to ensure the removal of dusts and viruses from the air.

Along with these external changes, offices should also promote mental health wellness. Organizations must offer safe environments and encourage employees to express their mental health concerns and seek support.

Not taking the psychological effects of the pandemic into consideration will ultimately impact businesses due to declined productivity and increased attrition.