Nothing to Condemn, Control and Criticize: The Bright Side of Work from Home during COVID-19 Pandemic

Bright Side of Work From Home

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic will be felt by organisations beyond six months. Organizations are struggling with an unprecedented challenge that is essentially different from what they have encountered earlier. In this hour of crisis, the HR function has to undergo a major change and has to act like a business partner in predicting the change, they need to co-create a range of scenarios and do effective planning for the future. This is also the perfect time for the HR leaders to recalibrate their concerns, have an increased focus towards managing a remote workforce, digitalize the HR-related function, and redesign workforce models.

With the present impact of social distancing and lockdown, organizations are shifting to work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. Such alternative work arrangements happened to be a more general trend in many kinds of business organizations and the mode reflects flexibility in the employment relationship, suppleness in the scheduling of work, and flexibility in the venue where work is accomplished. 

During this lockdown period, there will be lots of work that have to be accomplished from the fences of home. With the present social distancing trend, WFH is spreading in every sector with no exception for the educational sector as well. On the other hand, WFH cannot be adopted in all sectors. Many organizations, where employees were forced to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to continue WFH remotely even after the end of the shutdown period (Kovar, 2020).

People have been found to condemn and complain about the WFH arrangements calling it more stressful than normal, possibly because of the change in regular structure of routine (Scott, 2020).  As schools and offices are locked down, people complain that their daily chores have increased, not decreased (Dizik, 2020). Some will be adapting to working from home for the first time, with the stresses and tech woes that this might bring. There are many challenges to this of course, as WFH would definitely call for multitasking skills. On an individual level, WFH calls for the right scheduling of work. We need to be extremely realistic, when setting out your timetable, don’t try to mimic your day at the office – that does not happen; at home, you have other things as well.

With WFH and with a tight schedule balancing work and housework from home, you might be feeling really upset. You might be complaining about the difficulties of the lockdown period; suddenly your home turns into your office and also remains a home; you land up doing lots of things together.  Change of work environment might disturb your focus and affect everyday productivity. The sudden change to sit alone without colleagues might make you feel lonely. Staying alert and not getting distracted by kids, family members, or television can be a challenging task for people working from home. 

A 2017 ILO report found that 41 per cent of fully remote workers had high-stress levels, compared to 25 per cent of office workers. So, due to this lockdown, we have to stay at home and it’s mandatory to be at home; people are facing lots of stress and depression, this will make them feel lonely. People complain about family issues and the problems in their family. Women are more stressed because of this lockdown as they have to balance both home and work with equal effort. With the domestic space now also functioning as a workplace, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a work-life balance. The lack of physical boundaries between the two otherwise separate environments impacts both the work as well as family dynamics. If working from home becomes a success, this may have a negative impact on the demand for office space in future. 

Hey, is it all that bad? With the announcement of social distancing, quarantine and later lockdown, the regular office-goers felt secure and rather happier. Lockdown meant WFH for many and the first kind of change for those who are not exposed to it. This we can exactly label as something that we call in organizational psychology perspectives as ‘honeymoon phase’. People started enjoying, posting their cooking recipes and photographs, hobbies, challenges, accepted photo challenges, started having Zoom meetings with school and college friends, family members sharing jokes, paintings and what not and were taking the ultimate fun of it. 

While working from the office, much of one’s time is spent at the workplace; besides, travelling takes a big chunk of time. But when work takes place from home base, it’s an opportunity to restore the balance. Less commuting time on crowded roads or public transport could mean more time with your family. There’s also the comfort that comes from being in your own space, with your own things, and wearing what you like, it is easier to stay on top of household duties like putting on a load of washing or letting meals cook while you work. You might find it simpler to schedule in exercise or just take a break by going for a walk around the block.  People can set their own rules. Working in an office or busy workplace can mean having to work around the distractions of a shared space or team. But working remotely gives us the chance to change up our space, schedule, and ways of working. Depending on your situation, working from home could mean fewer interruptions from colleagues dropping by with gossip or problems, or the rush of people coming and going at peak times. Maybe for the first time after your university days and joining work, you have got a routine so less routinized;  you don’t need to set an alarm and wake up early and dress up and go to the office with a half-eaten packed breakfast. You can take breaks at any moment, feel no rush to hang up on your family members when they call and eat lunch at any weird time you want. And you don’t need to wear those office formals, organize your wardrobe every day. 

Probably, after a long time, people are enjoying the luxury of sitting with family members and eating meals with their family whenever they want to.  Well, when you work from the office, with a packed schedule, you might not have had free time, would have never made to late-night movies, eating, talking to friends and family. You have got to do all of them at one go now. It would be suggested to look into the bright side of WFH, and not condemn, control and criticize it. Probably it is short-lived and again things will fall in its place. On a reverse side, on a lighter note, if people are adapted to WFH after this lockdown is eased, there are chances that they won’t like to go back to their regular workplace.

But yes, of course, it may be sometimes challenging to stay tuned to work being at home.  You may perhaps find yourself getting distracted by family or flatmates, especially children.  But you can always sort this out. Establishing WFH boundaries is helpful so that people can help respect your need for focus at critical times. You’ll also be able to make your workspace comfortable and effective for yourself. Create deadlines for each assignment and break times to refresh yourself. Prioritize your family needs and requirements as, during the lockdown, we need to practice a healthy relationship and spend quality time with family as well. The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing, and this requires us to work from home, and we need to accept it.

Psychologists, who are handling employees and their bosses at work, need to explain to their clients that, look, it is important to acknowledge that the situation has changed; help them create a visible time-table. It will be important to point here out that women still take on the bulk of managing children’s schedules and activities, even if both spouses work, women perform more of the cognitive labour. Handled carefully, WFH is supposed to enhance productivity (White, n.d.), provided people do not feel stressed. 

It would wonderfully work for you if you can avoid judging yourself – or others – on what you can get done each day. People at all levels of a company are adjusting to a new normal, including your boss. 

References:

Dizik, A. (2020, April 04). How to work from home with your kids during coronavirus. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200401-how-to-work-from-home-with-your-kids-during-coronavirus

Kovar, J. (2020, April 13). Some May Work From Home Permanently After COVID-19: Gartner. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.crn.com/news/running-your-business/some-may-work-from-home-permanently-after-covid-19-gartner

Scott, E. (2020, March 16). How to Handle the Stress of Working From Home. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-stress-of-working-from-home-4141174White, S. (n.d.). Working from home can benefit employers as much as employees. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/the-benefits-of-working-from-home

Authors:
1. Dr. Tanusree Chakraborty
Associate Professor, Rajalakshmi School of Business, Chennai
Email – tanusree@rsb.edu.in

2. Ashritha M
PGDM I year Student, Rajalakshmi School of Business, Chennai

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