Critical Essay on Work from Home: The Future or Not?

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Since the 16th March 2020 when Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, asked the country's workers to “start working from home where they possibly can”. Employees and employers have had to innovate, adapt and overcome multiple challenges with regards to working from home.

The switch out of the office to a space at home brought positives for many employees: no commute, flexible hours, more free time, and lack of expenses such as travel. It also brought positives for employers: easier to get everyone in one room (virtually), some levels of increased productivity, reduced operating costs. However, it was not all plain sailing: the coronavirus disease has seen an increase in the amount of people suffering from mental health disorders. Two main reasons for this are: the isolation from other people and the lack of human interaction, and the increase in overall stress levels and not having a chance to relax and release the build-up of stress.

Therefore, this raises a debate about whether working from home is sustainable and possible in the future, and whether we will see these changes after the pandemic.

Firstly, working from home has benefited employees on a small scale. Many people have enjoyed having the flexibility on hours that they must work. After the Industrial Revolution, there was a strong working 9-5 culture where you get paid for the hours you do, however in recent years there has been a noticeable shift to getting paid to do a job, instead of getting paid for the hours you do. This shift has been exacerbated by the pandemic as people have become more understanding about workers' other commitments during the day. With this there is now an evident flexibility and understanding from employers that some people prefer to work on a different schedule to 9-5. An example of this would be workers that need to do the school run during the day could put off work for a certain time and come back to their desk within half an hour due to the small commute. For this reason, there is a demand from employees to employers to consider giving workers the choice of working remotely once restrictions have been lifted. This has been proved doable by some global executives and certain finance companies. A survey was conducted in which 800 global executives were asked how many days will they allow as ‘remote days’. The findings showed that 15% of global executives will allow 2 or more days a week out of the office. In the financial sector, the largest bank in the Netherlands, ABN Ambrose, predicts that half of working hours will be spent working remotely.

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Not only have our eyes been opened to many benefits and opportunities for employees of a business, there have also been benefits for employers. One of the long-term benefits for employers is the fact that costs could be reduced drastically if they moved out of the typical central business district offices. Statistics show that it can cost in between $12,000-20,000 per year to put one employee in a seat in prime market places such as New York, London, San Francisco, Shanghai and Hong Kong. This can come as a huge cost for a business. An argument for moving to virtual offices is that employers could not only cut costs, but invest these costs into other ways to increase productivity and employee morale. For example, some of this money could be added to employees’ wages and other parts of it could cover the cost of an employee setting up a suitable, distraction free workspace at home.

One of the major negatives for an employee is the fact that their productivity can be damaged when working from home. For example, some people do not have enough room in their house to create a suitable workspace for them. This can lead to issues because people begin to stress about not being able to do their job for whatever reason it may be. Not only can it lead to employees not doing their job and working to their full potential, it can also lead to a multitude of health issues, both physical and mental. There are three key ways in which working from home can increase the chances of mental health issues. The first is loneliness. 2.6 million people have been categorized as ‘chronically lonely’ during lockdown, another 14.3% have experienced reduced wellbeing due to loneliness in the period of early December 2020. Secondly, there are no lunch breaks. 1 in 3 UK workers work through their lunch every day and only 1 in 3 regularly take a proper lunch break. Working through lunch can leave you feeling stressed, tired, less focused, reduce your motivation, reduce creativity and impact your mood. Over time, failing to take regular rest breaks from work can have negative impacts on mental health. Increased stress can lead to burnout, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders like depression. And, finally, lack of physical activity. A daily commute that would have been the norm for many workers before the pandemic can often be beneficial for people. The importance of getting outside the office should not be underestimated. For example, walking to go and get lunch, walking from station to office, or even waiting outside at a station. All of these can be a release for people where they can have the opportunity to de-stress from their busy working day. However, it can be argued that for some people working from home gave them the opportunity and time to do meaningful exercise during the working day.

Not only can employees be damaged by having to work virtually, but employers can also see the negative effects. One key example of this is that it is a lot harder to create a good employer to employee relationship if the only time you are talking is online. This issue has been magnified by when people have been newcomers to a business during the coronavirus pandemic and don't know anyone, it is hard for them to create a good first impression. Again, this highlights the issues of working virtually and not communicating with people in person. Furthermore, it has been proven that when working as a team it is a lot easier for people to be more energized and feed off each other's enthusiasm. Therefore, many employers are keen to get their workers back into the office.

Executives say that the coronavirus has accelerated trends already changing the workplace: hot-desking and open-plan shared spaces, flexible hours and the use of technology to enable working from home. Having seen the majority of his 40,000 UK staff work successfully from their homes, Jonathan Lewis, Capita’s chief executive, told the media that he could envisage the UK outsourcer having “a smaller property footprint once the pandemic is over”. He also stated that the office spaces they currently keep would be used “less to house banks of standalone desks and much more to bring teams together to work collaboratively”.

To conclude, there are very clear positives and negatives about virtually working, and the pandemic has forced us to open our eyes and experience these. Many people will hope that they are never forced into the 5 days a week working from home in isolation, however I predict it will change the way we work and the flexibility that employees will have. Furthermore, with many international businesses being forced into re-evaluating their carbon footprint, perhaps there will be even more of an effort to move towards working from home, as that could be more sustainable in the long run. Or if offices work at less capacity, there could be more space to focus on more environmentally friendly workspaces.

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Critical Essay on Work from Home: The Future or Not? (2023, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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