Since almost one year, I’ve been in IT. Interview at home. I was hired and began working with my team. It was the first time that I have ever worked remotely, digitally and virtually in my entire life. Like many others, I was also excited about the work-from-home experience. We were all excited about the idea of not having to go to work, so we didn’t have to face Hari Sadu as a boss or attend boring meetings.
We could multitask at home and work flexible hours. You could watch Netflix while you work or even eat. There was no need for formal attire anymore. Because most team meetings are audio, there’s no need for formal attire. Even a simple T-shirt and shorts will suffice.
Virtual work environments have led to greater alienation among employees because there is less human contact in the work-from-home culture.
You can also save the hassle of driving to work by taking a bus or train with your company. Many people also saved money on fuel and eating out with colleagues. People who moved from small towns to large cities such as Bangalore or Pune were thrilled to be able to save their rent costs, which ultimately led to savings in the bank or the stock market.
However, all these perks and benefits came at a high price. Many people didn’t realize that the home office could become a liability. Employees aren’t happy, despite all the perks.
They soon realized that flexible working hours were no longer a reality. Because no one had the time or ability to cook every day, their petrol and rent savings often went towards ordering food from Zomato and Swiggy. People who had the time to cook at home preferred ordering online food over long hours.
Virtual work environments have led to greater alienation among employees because there is less human contact in the work-from-home culture. Many don’t like video calls, even though they are an option. It allows the individual to show their privacy and requires them to dress in formal attire and adhere to other formalities.
Work has become less interesting and requires long hours. This can be due to a lack in team motivation, distractions at work, family gossip, and the need for parents to care for children while they work. The lack of reliable and stable infrastructure, such as an uninterrupted power supply, reliable internet/broadband connection, and Virtual Desktop (VDI) is even worse. I have had a very negative experience with VDI clients. The VDI is not able to work flawlessly every day and must be reset multiple times per day.
This requires me to call a US-based helpdesk. A support representative with admin rights will reset my VDI so I can work. These distractions can cause work that is normally completed in 8 hours to take up to 12 hours daily. Another side effect of working from home is the lack of team collaboration and networking.
People used to network a lot before Covid. They would take water cooler breaks or coffee breaks, walk in the corridors or offices campus, and share their thoughts about work, team goals, and objectives. This is no longer the case. My company’s HR has created an online water cooler break for employees to chat and relax. However, very few people attend these sessions because it feels like another meeting.
Work from home has more dangers and liabilities than its perks and benefits.
People log in to work today, go to meetings, complete daily tasks by the deadline, update their team via EOD, then repeat the cycle the next day. What is the difference between a white-collar worker and a factory worker these days? The digital age has made white-collar IT workers look like blue-collar workers because of the virtual workplace and digitisation.
Apart from the obvious problems, I can’t end my post without mentioning the negative side effects on employees’ mental and physical well-being. My personal experience has shown that working remotely requires sitting in front of a computer for long hours. This is because I often schedule back-to-back meetings. Because it is difficult to make home-cooked food, the increase in junk food such as pizza is a result. Employees who live in air-conditioned homes tend to drink less water. A decrease in physical activity has led to a rise of unhealthy habits.
Employees’ mental health is also affected. Due to constant team chats, emails, and phone calls, stress levels have increased. Focused work has been reduced. Virtual work requires employees to be online all the time, which can lead to a shortage of personal space and time for many.
Working from home can have devastating side-effects for employees’ mental and physical well-being.
They are unhappy about the time they spend with their family, despite working remotely. For projects that require support for onsite clients, employees often have to work until late at night. This has disrupted their natural rhythm and affected their sleep cycles. In the past year, the number of people who suffer from anxiety, increased stress levels and insomnia has increased.
The perils and liabilities associated with working from home are greater than the perks and benefits. If one’s health is compromised, then what good is it to save a few extra bucks? What’s the point in working remotely for long hours when you could do the same job in less time at the office through teamwork and networking?
Is the remote work allowing employees to grow professionally? Are they motivated at the beginning of each day? Is their productivity really rising as stated by the companies? Or do they work long hours to meet deadlines despite all the distractions?
Many employees, particularly IT workers, will agree that work from home is more risky than it seems. The initial excitement surrounding work from home has turned bearish over the past few months. If this trend continues, the graphs of personal health, motivation, and work satisfaction will continue their downward spiral and eventually fall apart.
Instead of requiring employees to work from home, they can choose how they prefer to work. This could be entirely at home or from their office. Or, it could be flexible with three days away from work and two days at home. Employers and companies will benefit from a balanced and mixed approach to working in the long-term.