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Remote Working: Home or Away? But It’s No Holiday!

Remote working: When it was announced at the end of May 2023 that the pandemic was officially over, I expected to see people downing tools at home and rushing back to their offices. But it seems that this is just not the case! So why would workers prefer working from home (WFH) rather than being in the company of their working colleagues and enjoying free office space with complimentary teas and coffees?

Since lockdown and enforced working virtually, it seems that people have come to realise just how attractive working from home is; how it improves their lifestyle and creates a better work-life balance. However, some findings show that home working can also increase feelings of isolation and stress and be the cause of health problems associated mainly with a sedentary lifestyle.

But working from home does not have to be more sedentary than working from the office. Even though you don’t have the daily commute to and from the office to burn off a few calories, you can choose to exercise in the comfort of your own home when and where you want and for as long as you want. It’s so much easier to do a workout in your bedroom or living room early in the morning and then get straight to your home desk. The time you can dedicate to exercise is probably the same amount of time you would have spent commuting!

And for women – sorry to be sexist – it is so much less hassle to pull on an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt to start work at home rather than donning that power suit and heels to impress in the office.

However, in these days of Zoom conferencing calls, you should still look smart and professional – at least from the waist up! But, of course, there’s nothing stopping you leaving on those old pair of jeans and slipping on a smart top as people only see the top half of you on the screen!

Don’t be tempted though to switch off the camera and hide behind the screen as visibility is key to better interaction and participation.

Remote working from home can have its drawbacks

Whether male or female, working from home can have its drawbacks in the form of distractions. Young children bounding into your home office space wanting attention or feeding or a partner not respecting your work hours. I know my husband doesn’t fully realise that when I am pounding away on the computer, I am doing something constructive, creative and, more importantly, profitable.

Working from home does, however, have fewer distractions than in an office environment and enables you to focus more on your work, thus boosting productivity by an estimated 51%. Also, that work is more likely to be of a better standard as homeworkers can concentrate more fully on what they are producing.

I have a dedicated office space

I am lucky in that I have a dedicated office space that can be shut off from the rest of the house, but many home workers have only the kitchen table or the dining room in which to work. This can be enormously distracting for the worker and the rest of the family especially when taking or making phone calls. Not being able to hear what the person on the other end is saying because of family noise nearby or your caller being able to hear every word that your two children are screaming at each other in a fit of temper!!

Maybe it is because of the conflict between family members and homeworkers tiptoeing around each other remotely that has seen one gender rushing back to the office faster than the other. Men currently have the lead in the race to get back to office working with hardly any change in the number of women returning to the office.

Women stereotypically are the homemakers and men the bread winners

Women stereotypically are the homemakers and men the bread winners, so does that opinion reflect where one’s chosen workspace is? The theory is that women prefer remote working from home because that is where they feel most comfortable and useful. Whilst men need to leave the home to be the hunter-gatherer i.e. earning money in the job jungle to put food on the family table.

There is also a different mindset between men and women when it comes to flexible working. Men are less likely to ask for flexible working, seeing it as a failure – not being able to cope in the rat-race. The expectation to be present in an office is strong for men who are brought up to prioritise work and believe that this is part of their male identity.

Certainly, the emphasis is now on employers to build relationships between workers in the office environment and those working remotely.

Team get-togethers can also encourage people

Many employers have initiated team building exercises for all their employees, whether at home or in the office. Team meetings scheduled on a weekly basis and held virtually allow employers and employees to build strong, long-lasting relationships over time. These team get-togethers can also encourage people to start their own group chats to greatly benefit workplace culture for remote workers.

It goes without saying that structure is the mainstay of offices and is the key to the success of office working. Structure is also hugely important for remote working as workers benefit from a regular, reliable routine, such as taking breaks at fixed times with expected start and finish times. This also helps with time management by setting goals and prioritising tasks so remote workers can motivate themselves away from the office.

More recently, a middle course option has surfaced, which offers employees flexibility – what is known as the structured hybrid way of working where workers can travel into the office for between two or three days per week – with Tuesday being the most popular day followed by Wednesdays and Thursdays – coupled with working remotely from home on the other days.

But whether you choose to go back to the office full time, work from home permanently or a bit of both via the hybrid system, there is no doubt that, since the pandemic, remote working has grown in popularity and, it seems, is here to stay.

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