Although we are still in the trenches of Covid-19 and uncertainty reigns, many companies have adapted to teleworking. Many are manifestly planning to implement a hybrid work rhythm – alternating between home and office – beyond the time frame of the pandemic.
Employers have quickly realized that many types of work can be done remotely if there is space to work and a working Internet connection. It seems certain that the way of working will change significantly after this important cultural change, but nothing is clear yet.
While working from home can be convenient and comfortable, the fact is that, on the one hand, it is not a possibility for many of us and, on the other; the long-term effects of working in isolation or near isolation have not been felt or fully understood.
Working from home: Barriers to service-focused jobs
It is critical to consider the importance of building and maintaining a social infrastructure for workers whose jobs do not allow them to work remotely, that is, people in the retail, transportation and maintenance sectors, among many others.
As there are more and more types of jobs that alternate between working from home, for example, 3 days a week and going to the office the remaining 2, people have been finding more time to take care of their own needs cooking, baking, supporting themselves and their home, and even undertaking new hobbies.
As the demand for these types of services is constantly declining, the concern is to address the consequences of this change in culture around work, and possibly face higher unemployment rates.
However, there seems to be a positive side to this whole situation. Some people whose job is to provide a service have been able to successfully navigate the Internet, especially those who teach special classes in cooking, fitness, and even academics. However, this leaves a clear gap in the general group of manual workers and does not present a solution for those who simply cannot move their work to Zoom.
Working from home: Changes in productivity and availability of social networks
Second, there seem to be obvious drawbacks even for those whose work allows us to work from home full time.
Two different questions arise:
- How will the quality of our work be affected by working remotely?
- How will the decrease in the volume of social interaction affect us, which, for many, occurred mainly at their workplace?
These are serious considerations, and even more so considering that we are not yet aware of the long-term implications of these changes.
Sitting alone in front of a computer screen is not a substitute for the attractive and interactive environment of the office. It is no exaggeration to assume that, over time, the quality of work we are able to produce will suffer the consequences of lack of interaction, as we receive a blow to our productivity, creativity and willingness to continue working without a motivating environment.
This can lead to exhaustion and a sense of isolation, which will probably create a vicious cycle that can only be remedied by restoring a culture of sharing, discussion, and communication in real life, at least to some extent.
A hybrid home/office model can be helpful. Some employees will find that they work best when they have meetings and discussions in person, while others will thrive on organizing their thoughts on their own and in silence. Although both options are possible in an office, only one is feasible in an apartment.
Working from home: Some positives
Lastly, it would be disingenuous to despise all the good that has come from doing some types of remote work. For example, there have been many benefits for people with disabilities.
A typical 9 to 5 job is unrealistic for many people as they may have difficulty commuting to the office, sitting behind a desk for most of the day, or concentrating in a crowded and sometimes overly stimulating workplace.
Therefore, for certain groups of people, making teleworking a possibility may end up giving them job opportunities that they would not have otherwise had.
The bottom line is that we don’t know enough to predict the details of what will happen and how our work culture will transform, although it’s safe to say that we know it will change significantly.
It is important to look beyond the working conditions themselves to try to see the potentially damaging effects that the transition to a model that relies heavily on teleworking could have on many different groups of workers, while also appreciating the things that were achieved. Perhaps a hybrid home/office rhythm might be feasible for some types of work and could even present an ideal, equally convenient and stimulating alternative to the previously established work models.