Should Working Remotely Be Required?

Being forced to work remotely might be good or bad for you!
We don't know the impacts of working remotely when it is required. New research suggests people might feel more positively than negatively!

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, employees have been working remotely more than ever. Research conducted before the pandemic suggests that working from home generally has positive effects. Yet, these studies surveyed employees who were only sometimes working from home. They still had an office where they worked with colleagues at least a couple of days a week. As companies struggle to determine if they will stay remote forever, we dig into the research. Should companies require remote work from now on?

The Pros and Cons of Working Remotely

As mentioned above, lots of studies were conducted on having the option to work remotely before the pandemic. A meta-analysis analyzed all of their effects together. This study showed that the impact of working remotely was primarily positive. When employees were able to work from home, their work-life conflict decreased. Their autonomy, or feelings of control, increased. Their job attitudes, like satisfaction and intentions to leave, were also improved. Finally, their job stress decreased and their role performance increased.

These are pretty great findings in favor of working remotely! But, these individuals were still going into an office setting at times. Once employees were working from home for more than 2 days a week, coworker relationships suffered. More recent research studying working from home during the pandemic showed different results. Work-life conflict increased and employees were more fatigued when forced to work from home. So, it’s not clear if there are positive or negative impacts in required remote work.

When you aren't able to control if you work remotely, it's not clear what the outcomes are yet!
When you aren’t able to control if you work remotely, it’s not clear what the outcomes are yet!

Clues from Social Media

Brand new research shows that people talked about working remotely a lot on social media during the pandemic. Specifically, researchers examined tweets about working from home to see what the sentiment was. People being forced to work from home were likely authors of the tweets. They found that there were both positive aspects and challenges raised frequently. There were slightly more positive tweets than negative. Mental health and work-life balance appeared frequently in both positive and negative tweets.

Starting with the positive themes, the first was that people felt more productive. They also liked remote learning and the flexibility of working from home. They appreciated being able to stay connected due to technology as well. Having good collaboration and communication tools at work seemed to be a pathway to feeling more positive.

Regarding the negative themes, people said spending too much time in Zoom meetings was draining. They also struggled with work engagement and reported family conflicts. People were also concerned about cybersecurity. Employees experienced more negativity if they lacked a good home office set-up or had poor internet connectivity.

Social media analysis showed that there were more positive than negative tweets about working remotely during the pandemic.
Social media analysis showed that there were more positive than negative tweets about working remotely during the pandemic.

What Can You Do if Working Remotely is Required?

First, it seems that the physical environment and technology access are crucial with working remotely. Having an ergonomic, and functional, office is key for employee health. If your employees don’t have the tools they need to be connected and comfortable, they might suffer. If you are experiencing these issues, you might want to raise them to your manager. You’ll be able to capitalize on the positives and avoid the negatives if you have a reasonable place to work.

Second, companies might also limit the amount of time people spend on video. We have talked about Zoom drain before. You might also provide tips and resources for managing work and family boundaries. Setting boundaries on when emails are sent or how early or late meetings are held might help as well. If you’re an employee, you might talk with some of your colleagues or friends about what is working for their work-life balance. You might also ask your boss about which calls require video and which do not. They might be looking for a video break as well!

Hope this helps you to find the positives of working remotely and avoid the negatives. Generally, working remotely is positive but it gets a little trickier when it’s required!

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