Many employees will be feeling… unusual right now. And it’s really no surprise, as millions of remote workers find themselves trapped in a state of post-lock down limbo, not yet fully settled back into the office but tired of working from home as the novelty has now well and truly worn off. Managers need to remain alive to the tricky situation their employees are currently faced with and support them with strategies and tools to help them cope and thrive.
The costs of remote/flexible work
A common way to ensure that employees enjoy work-life balance is by offering flexible working hours or encouraging working from home, when needed. Unfortunately, research shows that blurring the lines between work and personal life can have damaging effects on work-life balance, which surprisingly goes against the intention. Technology and being “always-on” creates stress, which negatively impacts work life. Being always-on may also limit your ability to take actual breaks from work, because you’re always partly engaged, which is detrimental to your productivity. Creating clear boundaries between your work and personal life is important for limiting stress and being able to be fully engaged in both roles.
Lack of buffer periods
Despite the challenges of working from home, one of the tangible benefits it offers is the absence of a commute to the office. In the early days of lock down, many of us were excited by the extra time that had suddenly been added to our daily schedule. Whether we used it positively to exercise before starting the working day or simply spent an extra hour or two in bed, we didn’t think we’d ever miss travelling to work.
But although our lack of a commute saves us time and reduces stress, we’re starting to realize that the journey time can actually improve productivity as it provides a clearly defined period when we can plan our working day in the morning and switch off from it in the evening. Without these buffer periods, workers can become demotivated and find it difficult to achieve work-life balance.
Reduced social life
Not being in the office reduces your chances of socializing with your colleagues, which deprives you of a major source of motivation. It’s difficult to run ideas by other people as you would at work or find the inspiration you need to approach a new task. In the absence of immediate face-to-face feedback on your work, it can be challenging to derive satisfaction from your efforts and to find the determination to continue. Social relationships in the workplace make a significant contribution to feelings of connection, identification and fulfillment.
Although modern technology offers many ways for us to connect with one another virtually, these interactions can often feel awkward and less emotionally convincing than the real-world meetings we’ve been used to.
As the working world slowly edges out of lock down, managers should keep in mind that their employees are likely to be struggling to cope with the promise of a return to semi-normality on the one hand, and a keen awareness that, on the other, the return is still tantalizing far off.
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