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BW Businessworld

Is Work From Home Causing Breakdown For Employees

Breakdowns amongst employees have been rampant and there has been an exponential increase in domestic violence as the office becomes virtual, and employees have no personal time or space.

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The office has shifted home for nearly 40% employees globally and the numbers will rise in the near future as the pandemic raises its ugly head again. A few months of lockdown saw every employee work from home. The window provided valuable insights to employers that they can cut infrastructure costs, HR headaches, and retain productivity while keeping workers safe.

Employees that were working from home stated that they felt safer in the initial months. Daily commute times and peak hour rush was avoided adding to the productivity. The cracks are beginning to show now!

Mental health issues arising from Work from Home

Man is a social animal and very few can survive the isolation that WFH offers. Working in solitude can be disconcerting. This is especially true for the millennial generation who are dependent on colleagues for company and friendship to a large extent. 19% of WFH employees reported extreme loneliness and isolation. Loneliness can become chronic and cause deterioration of mental health as much as a physical ailment. The temporary reality of isolation has been cause of breakdown that ranges from mild to severe in some cases.

The family man also faces a unique set of problems. The work life balance is almost non-existent when WFH kicks in. There is no switching off and the employee is accessible at all hours. Increasing number of workers have reported that they have no fixed work hours. Workloads have increased and the mid-level executive has borne the brunt.

Families cooped up at home with zero entertainment have led to a spate of domestic issues as frustration, depression and anxiety rules the roost. The strain of extra work loads within the disrupted chaos of family life has created havoc. Breakdowns amongst employees have been rampant and there has been an exponential increase in domestic violence as the office becomes virtual, and employees have no personal time or space.

Loss of workplace as a community

Workplaces become a diverse and inclusive community, where every employee identifies as being a part of a group. There are common meeting spaces like the cafeteria or the coffee machine. There is an exchange of ideas and general camaraderie that enhances a sense of well-being. The sudden loss of this daily interaction can be detrimental to mental health. The office community often becomes a strong support system and workers feel lost without the common work place.

Virtual meetings are typically short and business like with no social interaction. There is no stopping by the desk of a fellow employee or an exchange of pleasantries. While some workers seem to be coping well, in a majority of the WFH employees a sense of desolation creeps in after a few months. A feeling of belonging is integral to engagement and productivity dips in the long term.

WFH has no geographical boundaries leading to cultural isolation

Technology has made the world a global village and WFH has brought laser focus that workers can be stationed anywhere and still be productive. Time zone utilization makes bottom lines feasible for the employer, but there are downsides too.

Some employees who work remotely may speak a different language and communication with managers and colleagues can be a big issue. Cultural differences amongst the team may lead to differences in attitude. Some countries treat managers like bosses where some have a more informal relationship. The employee coming from another geography and culture may feel alienated and a misfit.

Cultural and communicative isolation leads to depression and low performance matrices. The employee needs team spirit to enhance the sense of belonging which may be absent in remote workers. Attrition becomes high and engagement remains low. Job satisfaction is poor and studies confirm high instances of depression and isolation.

Conclusion

A short period of being confined at home is acceptable but long term Work from Home can be detrimental to mental health and lead to breakdown. The solution could be virtual “tea breaks” or informal meetings after work hours within teams.

Managers must set boundaries and allow the employee space to rest and switch off. Pervasive deadlines and disrespect of the personal time of employees remains the major reason for burnout in WFH workers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Alok Bansal.

MD & Country Head at Visionet India

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