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Pros and cons of working from home: how can we boost productivity?

Laura.Vasilov.photo

Laura Vasilov

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The COVID-19 crisis gave us no choice in the Spring of 2020: it pushed us out of the offices and transformed our homes into working spaces in a matter of days. Most of the companies started to work online, and some of them never returned to the offices again. Consequently, over 56% of employees identify themselves as remote workers.

The change to remote working brings a wide variety of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we are going to dive into the positive, as well as negative aspects of remote working. In the end, we’ll propose several solutions to become more productive at working from home.

Advantages of working from home 

A study conducted by Statista revealed the main positive outcomes that were brought by Covid-19 and remote working. Let’s dive into them:

  • Flexible scheduling 

The working hours became more flexible. Depending on the level of your productivity, people could choose to work at 6-7AM or complete the job-related tasks late in the evening. Depending if you’re an early bird or night owl. As long as you fulfill your responsibilities, it doesn’t really matter when you do them. 

  • No commute time

The second advantage of remote work is the costs and time saving from commuting.  According to the Auto Insurance Center, employees used to spend around 100 hours commuting and 41 hours stuck in traffic per year. Ditching the commute helps us save time on priorities, getting extra sleep in the morning, or focusing on important activities. 

  • Freedom to travel/ relocate 

Being bound to working from home has opened a broader range of job opportunities that aren’t limited by geographic location. With remote work, you can decide to live wherever you feel it’s best, you don’t have to make compromises on locations. 

  • Reduced anxiety/stress 

Fortunately, respondents (34%) have declared that working from home made them feel more calm and less stressed about work. Around 26% have had their mental, physical, and spiritual health improved due to lockdown. 

  • Able to care for family, aging/sick relatives, pets

Another benefit of staying at home meant that more time was dedicated towards taking care of the loved ones: relatives, friends, partners and pets. 

Other benefits of working from home include reduced office politics, positive environmental impact, money savings and a customizable office. 

Disadvantages of working from home 

Despite all of the advantages of working from home, there are several substantial challenges that we have to learn to deal with at home. 

  • Being organized  

When the place where once was just your relaxing environment becomes your office, it is easy to lose focus. According to a survey conducted by Statista, 47% have declared that the biggest challenge is to manage at-home distractions and being organized. 

  • Collaborating with colleagues/clients 

The second biggest issue of remote working is the lack of collaboration with teammates: 35% have claimed this problem. In the office it was easy to quickly solve a problem, get updates and share information.  Whereas with remote work, the overall communication requires more effort.

  • Isolation/ loneliness

Yes, you go to the office to work, but social contact is also important to keep the energy up, exchange funny stories and make stronger connections with your coworkers. Frutos et al. (2020) found that 85% of respondents believed that providing psychological support at work is essential, in order to diminish the feelings of loneliness, especially during COVID-19. 

  • Work/life balance 

Another issue of remote working is knowing when to stop working. Many managers are reluctant towards home working because of the fear that employees will not work the 8h per day. However, it seems that the opposite is actually the case: remote workers are more likely to overwork.

When you have an office routine, it is easier to make the distinction between time allocated to work and personal life. According to Statista, 28% suffer from work burnout. 


Other challenges: 

On top of the biggest challenges mentioned above, respondents claimed to have challenges related to networking and fostering career development (24%), taking adequate time away from work (28%), motivation (29%) and digital transformation capabilities of the firm. 

 

One thing is sure – remote working poses serious challenges to productivity, which most likely will outweigh the benefits of working from home. In this sense, we come with a list of solutions that might help you increase your productivity and efficiency in your home office. 

 

Solutions to maximize productivity

Keep your office clean and tidy and remove any possible distractions

In a study conducted by the Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), 88% of respondents declared that their productivity and focus were damaged by an untidy space. A clean office, on the other hand, looks and feels more professional, by allowing you to focus on work-related tasks. The perception of your task’s importance can sometimes start with your desk’s appearance. In essence, as complex as humans’ brain is, it can be distracted by minuscule stimuli, like two unclean cups left on the table. Therefore, regularly cleaning your table can lift your spirit, increase your concentration and strengthen your morale.

 

Keep the distractions away and your phone out of sight 

Another big distraction is the phone. Constant notifications or the impulse to check messages could often interrupt your flow of work. One study has proven that the mere presence of mobile devices reduces available cognitive capacity. Therefore, the solution is straightforward, put your phone and any distractions out of your sight. 

Schedule your day and tasks

It’s not news that productive people schedule their days. Schedules help you have a clear overview of your goals for the month/week and give clear direction on daily responsibilities. You could try: 

  • The time blockchain method: assigning specific hours dedicated to specific tasks, to know exactly what and when you are going to accomplish it. 
  • The most important task method: focusing on 1-3 tasks that are most essential; you don’t do any tiny task until you have completed the three main tasks. 
  • The Pomodoro technique: working in short, but very productive and focused bursts, followed by a brief break. All you need is a timer! (25 minutes work, 5 minutes break)
  • 90-Minute focus session: take the full advantages out of 90 minutes and rest for 20-30 minutes.

Schedule informal meeting, even virtually 

As mentioned above, isolation is one of the big challenges that Covid-19 has brought to our society. Working from home might have a negative consequence on the team spirit. In this sense, to increase the good mood, you could set up daily interactive meetings for the team, where you can talk about work tasks, and share your personal events as well (as we used to do in the office). Also, another solution would be to allocate time for social interaction outside of work, such as organizing online coffee breaks. Bottom line, a team with high spirits, will be more productive, and socialization definitely helps to improve the work atmosphere.

Engage in learning activities and invest in your personal growth

Covid-19 and lockdowns have limited the activities that we have previously used to engage in after work. From another perspective, we have gained more time for ourselves. In this sense, it is the perfect time to pick up a new skill, learn something new and develop yourself. If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge in IoT, AI, Big Data, Cloud or Blockchain, take a look at the courses that CCC is offering. You’ll definitely feel proud and confident of yourself, once you get certified in an interesting subject. 

Besides that, you can make use of the large resources of articles that CCC proposes on various topics on digital transformation and much more. Also, if you’re a podcast enthusiast and would like to hear interviews with digital experts from all over the world, check out the CCC Talks Podcast

Concluding thoughts

The Covid-19 has changed the way we live and work, and, unfortunately, this situation won’t change any time soon. McKinsey Global Institute, in the report  “The future of work after COVID-19” found that remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue, but less intensely than at pandemic’s peak. In fact, 30% of interviewed companies declared that they planned to reduce office space. Covid-19 may boost faster adoption of automation and AI: 70% of interviewed senior executives said they are significantly investing in AI. Thus, human employees will have to adapt to the new changes brought by Covid in the working like. Bottom line, the concluding advice is to accept the situation, try to make use of all the advantages from remote working and implement solutions to overcome the downsides of it. 

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