6 Reasons Why Remote Will Not Replace Office Work => The COVID-19 confinement woke up a whole horde of remote work supporters, claiming it improves your quality of life like nothing else. But is it really so?
For the last few months, many of us needed to work from home, due to the surge of the novel coronavirus. With this, many old supporters of remote work seem to be triggered into advocating the benefits of it. But like everything that has an upside, working away from your office also brings its disadvantages.
Working remotely can be a breath of fresh air, allowing you to take care of your children when they are sick, to take your car to the mechanic, or even to take some time without having someone interrupting your focus time to ask if you have that report ready. When done right, it can bring balance to your life. But the truth is, it often brings several problems to people, especially during these times where social interactions are kept to a minimum.
1. Creative Work and Discussions Are Harder to Achieve
I think this was the main obstacle I had to overcome during this time. While most of the day-to-day work was being done with no apparent impact, the more creative work, in which I include discussions, design, and explanations of proposed solutions were a lot harder to achieve. It could be because the internet connection was terrible, the lack of a whiteboard to allow a visual explanation, or because the child of one of the attendees wouldn’t stop crying.
These discussions are one of the most crucial tasks in software engineering, and I believe this scenario occurs in other professional areas as well, which means that this is a big pain point when working away from your colleagues.
2. “Too Flexible” Work Schedule
A flexible work schedule is one of the biggest sellers when recruiters are head-hunting. They sell it as the key to your freedom, claiming that your life will be firmly improved since you would have time for personal projects.
However, when working from home, you tend to work more hours than you should. It’s frequent for me to work non-stop from 9 am to 1 pm and afterward from 2 pm to 6 pm — two blocks of 4 hours each day, without stretching my legs.
But why does this happens when I’m working from home and not at the office?
There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, since the meetings are done via a video-conference call, I don’t need to walk to the meeting rooms. Said like this, it seems a minor thing, but these pauses allowed me to stop what I was doing, and start preparing for the subject of the meeting I was going to. Besides, during this two-minute walk, the team would gather together and quickly sync about how things were going.
Secondly, while working at the office, it was common for the team to take a break when we would get a coffee and grab something to eat. Sometimes, we would just take a break to grab a bit of fresh air. When remote, since I have no-one to have a break with me, I usually just bring my coffee to my work station and keep on working.
3. Lack of Social Interaction
This is a bit connected with the previous point. The lack of a social side and not being with other people can bring a dangerous solitude to your life. Not having anyone asking, “How are you doing?” every day when you arrive at your work location or someone with whom you can discuss your personal and professional problems is an issue that often goes unseen. Even when having meetings, you are in a call for a reason, like solving a problem or discussing some ideas.
We frequently forget that the people that we work with are the people we spend most of our time with. If we are working remotely, it usually means that you are working alone, without anyone to talk to. It can be so depressing that it can affect your work more than you think.
4. Expenses and Lack of Equipment
One of the central claims for the benefits of working from home is that you would cut costs. But is that the real scenario?
The main cost that you cut when working remotely is transportation. Since you don’t have to leave your home to work, you will spend a lot less on gas. However, if you use public transportation, you may still need to acquire a transport pass for your personal needs.
In terms of cost reduction, it pretty much ends here. But there are some hidden costs when working at home that most of us don’t account for:
- You will consume more electricity, especially during the winter and summer for heating and air conditioning;
- You will consume more food since many offices provide some basic food like coffee, bread, etc. Personally, I also eat more when at home, for some reason;
- You may need to invest in equipment and office supplies such as monitors, office chairs, notebooks, pens, etc. At the office, typically you would have these kinds of supplies;
- You will need to clean your house more often. If you spend more time at home, it’s normal for it to get dirty sooner.
There are a lot of funny videos of the people’s kids appearing on camera when they are not supposed to. This is just an example of the distractions we have at home. We keep the responsibilities we have at home and accumulate them with our professional duties. It also becomes difficult to draw a line between “job time” and “home time.”
Even worse, your mind can always be thinking about work problems, since you no longer have your rest and work time in different spaces.
6. No Team Building
I’m not talking about the good old team building activities. I’m talking about the day-to-day team building activities. Little things like having lunch together, a compliment for a great job, or even a beer after a hard day gone through together. These activities are essential to keep the team spirit alive.
Having a great team spirit is the most fundamental thing for the work to flow well. If you trust your team, you will have no problem asking for their help when you need it. This is achieved by going through problems together. You end up creating emotional bonds with your colleagues, and those bonds help you do your work because they create trust within the team.
By working remotely, those bonds start fading away. A few weeks ago, I was asked how the motivation within the team was, something I’m asked every once in a while. For the first time, I had to answer the worst response to this question: “I don’t know.” I really didn’t. Since the majority of the times that we gathered, it was with a well-defined purpose, there wasn’t much time for us to talk about the challenges that we were going through.
This means we need to put extra effort into trying to keep the team spirit alive!
Working from home is a different approach that, like everything in our lives, brings pros and cons. It is not the solution to all of our problems, and not everyone prefers it over being in an office. It also puts the resilience and union of a team to the test. If you are not alert and ready to take action when your team’s collaborative spirit starts to decline, it can be the beginning of the end of a good and united team.
Remote Working is not a benefit. Stop selling it as one.
There are situations where working remotely is preferable, and others where it’s better to grab everyone together in an office. It always depends on the specific situation and, even more critically, on the people that you have. Something that may be better for one may not be for another. Always have that in mind.
First posted at: medium.com. Original article here