There have been some rumblings around the world as some of the biggest companies make their way back into the offices. These companies are saying that a return to the office mandate will help in productivity and regain some work-life balance that workers lost during the work-from-home months. Surely there is some wisdom in following the leaders, right?
Or is it that remote work is more than just a trend? Instead, it can revolutionize the way workers regain some of that work-life balance that they’ve been promised, or maybe it can hinder it.
Is remote work bad for workers, or is it a myth that companies want to believe to push people back into offices? This is the question at the center of Dr. Gleb Tsipursky’s essay on Forbes.
After Google forced a return to the office, many other companies started claiming that there were many disadvantages to working remotely. While it is true that there are many challenges to being a remote worker, as Tsipursky points out, this line of thinking has been fed by not addressing the elephant in the room: working at an office also has many disadvantages.
He argues that returning to the office is not an answer to the trials of remote work. Instead, it presents different tribulations that have been proven time and again as damaging to workers and their overall well-being, like increased commute, oppressive office culture, and poor nutrition.
“52% of all applicants flocked to these listings, meaning they had more than 4x the number of candidates interested than the listings that were not listed as remote.”
Studies continue to pile up on how remote jobs are more attractive to candidates, with applicants going for jobs that offer this modality at a much higher rate. Not only that, Tracking Happiness found that remote workers report a happiness level about 20% greater than office-centric ones.
It appears that the case is closed, right? But not so fast. As the author points out, there are very real disadvantages to working remotely. The most insidious one is that working from home can isolate the person by destabilizing the work-life balance. The answer to things, though, is as easy to dole out as it is hard to live by limits. Limit your time on the computer, set some time for breaks, and set clear boundaries and expectations for what you can do daily.
There are many advantages to being a remote worker, but one of the most attractive is the work-life balance, says Sophia Barron in her piece for Owl Labs. The freedom to do more than just work in a day, to have enough time and energy to focus on personal pursuits and foster relationships, is something that many remote workers list as a main perk.
Still, there are disadvantages to being away from the office, including the lack of a water cooler chat, less of an opportunity for in-house networking, and even, if they’re not careful, increased pressure and work hours.
“Without coworkers around to remind you to take breaks, eat lunch, and leave the office for the day, remote workers might find themselves working additional hours, and not having as much free time as they otherwise would.”
In Barron’s piece, she creates two lists differentiated by what remote workers vs. work-from-home workers can do to avoid burnout by prioritizing balance. There are significant differences between those who use their flexibility to travel or cowork and those who would rather do their jobs from their home. It’s not that one is better than the other, just that the needs for working in one space or another vary.
The list is as follows:
1. Set a schedule
2. Differentiate your offline and online hours
3. Take breaks throughout the day
4. Make after-work plans
5. Dress yourself to get in the work mood.
6. Work in a designated space
7. Avoid canceling meetings
8. Eat a good lunch
9. Take walks
In a piece for Fortune, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky elaborates on the mental health crisis surrounding remote work, burnout. In this piece for Fortune, he continues his argument that even if there is a decrease in remote and hybrid work by office “traditionalists,” it still improves the overall well-being of workers.
“Given that we had much more fully remote or hybrid work at the height of the pandemic, arguably full- or part-time remote opportunities decreased burnout, rather than increased it.”
According to Tsipursky, burnout is not a problem unique to remote work. Instead, as several studies back up his claims, burnout began long before the COVID-19 pandemic forced office workers to work from home, and instead it helped decrease the effects of it for a majority of people.
In 2018, Deloitte found out that 77% of workers experienced burnout, while Gallup found similar results with 67% of workers reporting burnout in their study. In the midst of the pandemic, McKinsey found out that only 54% of US workers and 49% of global employees reported burnout, adding fuel to the theory that remote work helps manage mental health.
Again, he insists that there are pros and cons to remote work, and that the work-life balance can be affected even while working remotely, but research points out that this is a problem that remote workers better manage.
Work-life balance seems to be a problem across the board for workers who cannot set limits, or who work in ultra-demanding companies. Still, there is a drastic difference between office and remote employees who report feeling burnout, mental health issues, and the general malaise of having their boundaries trampled under the weight of their job’s responsibilities.
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