With no other option for anyone than to work from home - there has been a spike in the levels of unproductivity and stress. The coronavirus outbreak has triggered an anxious trial run for remote work on a grand scale. But, for a lot of people that is unfortunately not the best option.
In a 2016 paper “Does Working From Home Work?” a team of economists looked at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee Chinese travel agency that had randomly assigned a small group of its call-centre staff to work from home. At first, the experiment seemed like a win-win for workers and owners. Employees worked more and said they were happier with their job. Meanwhile, the company saved more than $1,000 per employee on office space. But when Ctrip made this policy for the entire company, it caused a mess. One complaint trumped everything else: Loneliness.
Why Does Work From Home Not Feel Productive?
Studies have found that working from home cuts commuting times and associated fatigue, transport congestion, and environmental impacts. So why is it harder for some people to work from home?
Beyond lost creativity and companionship, the biggest threat from remote work is that it breaks the social bonds that are necessary to productive teamwork. For example, Google conducted a research project on its most productive groups. The company found that the most important quality was “psychological safety” - confidence that team members wouldn’t embarrass or punish individuals for speaking up.
Office banter, terrible jokes and dry humour all act as a way of ensuring "psychological safety." As well as being a source for the spark of creativity, and productivity we see in an office environment. Especially keeping in mind that human interaction and socialization at the end of the day is what gives us a boost to finish work or inspire us to work on a project.
But It Has Researched Benefits
On a one-off basis, working from does improve productivity and energy levels and even creativity. But, what hasn't been researched is working from home during a pandemic. That's a major difference.
In periods where you can go out to a cafe and work, or go to a friends house and work or even leave the house for a walk or run once a day can boost productivity. Currently, in the state of a lockdown - we see nothing but the walls around our houses. This is what has been exhausting creativity and productivity in most people.
Another part of the stress is due to being in a non-productive environment. Locating colleagues to keep projects moving and trying to do conference calls surrounded by children, barking dogs or parents bickering.
The stress of the pandemic itself has also translated into work attitudes. Work from home once or twice a week may seem ideal in a non - pandemic era, but currently, work from looks really hard to do.