3 working from home myths: busted

As the lockdown easing continues, many businesses will be kicking their return-to-work plans up a notch.

Some may be accelerating discussions about the need for a physical workplace and considering a permanent work-from-home strategy. However, workplace experts Steelcase warn of the dangers of permanently moving away from the physical workplace. Through researching the realities of remote working, Steelcase has discovered three key misconceptions of working from home and the truth behind them:

1. It costs less to have people work from home

In reality, working from home long-term is not possible for many employees, and some may choose to leave. Only 5% of people who work from home all or most of the time say they’ll stay at their company through their career. The cost of replacing well-trained, valued employees far outweighs the gains from reduced real estate costs. Too much remote working also slows innovation and increases the risk to employee safety – both of which can cost businesses huge sums in the long run.

2. People are just as (or more) productive at home as they are in the office

This all depends on how you measure productivity – individual work may be up, but creativity and collaboration are down. It has been proven that proximity and social accountability boost productivity, and the serendipitous interactions that can spark inspiration are impossible to recreate online.

Remote working can also pave the way to disillusionment: millennial and Generation Z workers, who are disproportionately affected by full-time working from home, feel the least accomplished of all generations, fail to understand how their work at home contributes to company goals, and don’t have a clear grasp on what’s expected of them. When individuals don’t feel connected, they cannot produce their best work.

3. People who work from home have a better work-life balance

For many, the opposite is true. The lines between “home” and “work” blur, leaving employees working an extra two hours every day in the UK on average. “Social exchange theory” indicates that employees respond to being given the ability to work remotely by working more, which can be extremely detrimental to their wellbeing.

Virtual meetings are more exhausting than their in-person counterparts, sedentary working can cause weight gain and physical pain, and the lack of place-based rituals can lead to temporal disintegration, with employees feeling disoriented and without a sense of the future. Exclusively working from home can, in fact, worsen work-life balance for many individuals.

You can read more in Steelcase’s report, Navigating what’s next: The post-COVID Workplace

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