Alan Jenkins, MD of Quadrant2Design, explains why, sometimes, working from home might not work for everyone
Of course, working from home sounds great, and it’s the future, right? But does it stack up in the real world, for most businesses? Maybe not. Let’s examine the eight reasons why working from home may not be as great as it seems.
Mental health issues
For most people, working from home is being kept in isolation. Isolation is bad for your soul and damaging to your mental health. We’re social animals, and we need to be with other people – that’s why the most dangerous and violent prisoners get solitary confinement. Is that what we want for our colleagues?
Social life and relationships
Many people depend on the social interactions inherent in going into work. While we don’t like everyone we work with, nonetheless, we talk, gossip, laugh and (sometimes) cry with each other. We get along, bound together by our common purpose and a sense of camaraderie. Oh…and guess what? As many as 15% of us will meet our life-partners at work (sorry, HR, but it’s true).
If you believe you can communicate just as well by email or WhatsApp, think about some of the real howlers of misunderstandings that occur due to a misplaced apostrophe or predictive text! And consider that, when you’ve typed an email, you’ll have used 100 words when, ‘face-to-face’, half would suffice. This is because nuance, meaning and understanding can be best conveyed when talking in person, face-to-face.
If we’re honest, most of us can kiss goodbye to motivation when we work from home. The simple act of getting up at an appropriate time, getting showered and dressed for work, puts us in the right frame of mind for work. I wonder how many ‘work-at-homers’ end up in their jim-jams all day, watching repeats of Friends? Just saying!
We’ve all been there. You’re on that important conference call with a customer when the cat jumps onto the dining table (err… sorry your desk) and throws-up on your keyboard. Not pleasant and very off-putting. As well as feline-related distractions, you can add noisy children, the wife/husband, daytime TV and your irritating neighbours.
At this point, it’s fashionable to say that so much more gets done when you work from home. Oh yes, productivity is soaring to unprecedented levels. But is it? Oh, there are plenty of spurious surveys on the internet, usually with the preamble ‘A recent survey says…’ but never any real hard data. If there was actual evidence for increased productivity, why aren’t bosses demanding that we all work from home?
Most businesses are a sophisticated ‘machine’ of inter-dependent human beings working together to achieve a common end, the manufacture of a product, the supply of a service or, sometimes, both. My company, Quadrant2Design is a good example. We create exhibition stands for trade shows. Our people are designers, managers and production people with overlapping functions and responsibilities. Each person’s work directly affects the next, which is why constant, face-to-face discussion and communication is vital.
The best companies to work for have an influential culture. People mould them and they, in turn, mould people. You’re proud to be part of the company culture, and it enriches your life, no matter whether you’re a high-flyer or a ‘nine-to-fiver’. People who work from home are denied the rewards of taking an active part in this very human experience, leaving them alienated and disconnected. Why be so cruel to your colleagues?