Most of the workforce does not work from home, so the government’s “back to work” announcement will mean little to them. But many may be hoping for another extension, even if going to their workplace might make them happier.
It’s very attractive not to be under the cosh, and the time saved by commuting makes life less stressful; but working from home (WFH) was forced on workers so quickly, it was not a deliberate strategy and there was no chance to weigh the pros and cons and fully consider what we would lose on the plan social.
The WFH means there is more pressure on other areas of our life to provide the social interactions we need to be happy – the fleeting and solid connections.
Working in the same place as others provides an environment for sociability by default – you can unsubscribe and wear headphones, but most people click with at least some of the people they work with. But it’s like with friends outside of work, these relationships take time and effort to bond.
Some might even fall in love. I met my current partner at work and most of my old boyfriends, now I think about it.
I heard a story this week that made me worry about the long term effects of WFH on our social relationships.
A friend’s father passed away and she emailed her boss to explain that she needed a week off. His boss was very understanding…. and then failed to mention the death to the rest of the team.
When my friend returned, she was directly in the drama of a big project where things were wrong and people were lively. She had to explain why she wasn’t in good shape. His colleagues were shocked because they were not informed of his loss.
Before the pandemic, the team would likely have traveled 40 km to attend the funeral; sitting in a pub and glued to a sandwich, sharing that feeling we all get after a funeral – that life is too short to sweat the little things, before heading back to the office to sweat the little things.
This is an extreme case of losing sight out of mind, but when we don’t see ourselves in person how can we be properly aware of how things are going in our mind.
The collapse of healthy boundaries with the WFH has been well documented and I think this lack of a different feeling between being at work and at home also makes us less sociable. If we feel like we’re never quite on top of our job, we won’t feel like we have time to waste sociability.
I work remotely so it’s ironic to say it’s not good for you, but I recently started doing my job in a shared workspace and find I have more time to meet. people.
At home, with no set hours and constant distractions, something that took me two hours could take 10. It took a soccer ball to be thrown through the kitchen window, glass flying everywhere, just in time. where I organized my face into a bright smile to begin a zoom interview to make myself understand that I really needed a different place to work.
And there is something about stepping out into the world every day that makes me feel more of the human race.
Apparently even a simple thing like ordering coffee can cheer us up, with research from the University of British Columbia show that having a pleasant interaction can make you happier.
I am fascinated by the momentum of the WFH, because something so involuntary is likely to have a truly lasting impact. Everyone I meet I ask if they WFH and are happy. I was at a lovely customer service rep from Eir who told me she was delighted to WFH and doesn’t miss the “so-called office camaraderie” at all.
When questioning him more closely, she admitted that she missed out on morning coffee with her coworkers but overall, without all the chatter and laughter in the background of the call center, she could do work more easily. But I couldn’t help but feel that she needed it more than she knew.
Steven Cochrane, director of data and analytics at Paddy Power Betfair, emailed me saying he won’t be coming back five days a week and that the past 18 months have prompted a rethinking of the office.
“For someone working in an internationally dispersed team who spent a lot of time on Zoom calls before the pandemic, I challenge myself and my colleagues what an office is really for.
“For me, it’s no longer a place to sit in front of desks with oversized ‘don’t interrupt me’ headphones while hitting your keyboard outputting whatever you produce – code, ppt, e-mail, Word – while working.
“It also doesn’t mean that I would want to stay home all week if my job was limited to that, which I don’t. Work is a social activity and I miss the informal communication that happens over coffee, in the stairwell or in the canteen. These rapid and sometimes catalytic interactions
because something big or urgent is not happening so easily right now and the loss of productivity or innovation is unquantifiable, ”he said.
“There is the feeling of community and belonging which is difficult to digitize. I would like to think that an office in the future will be a place for workshops, meetings, ideation sessions and interactive question-and-answer sessions.
This type of overhaul will be easier for large organizations, but small businesses should also focus on bringing their employees together.
Brendan Kelly is Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin who has written The science of happiness and he feels that working from home may not have that human connection.
“It turns out a lot of people went to work not to work – it turns out a lot of that could still be done at home. No, a lot of people have gone to work to meet colleagues, chat at the water cooler, congregate in the parking lot, and hang out after meetings. These are key activities for building team bonds, generating new ideas and optimizing group performance.
“When we return to the workplace in September, opportunities for these semi-social activities in the workplace should be given priority,” he advised.
While waiting for government guidance, many may feel at home in their WFH element. But maybe when they return, they will also realize what they missed.