Remote Work: Yes or No? Positive or negative?
Before Covid our working reality seemed to be set in stone. We would go every single day to the office, regardless of traffic, weather, or other factors - sometimes even when we had a "soft" cold. It was the norm and not many of us questioned it.
The pandemic shifted reality as we knew it and we were forced to adapt which we did quite promptly. It has been two tough years dealing with illness, death, depression while juggling personal and professional challenges.
Reality started shifting again while the pandemic slowly stabilized. Individuals and organizations had to adapt and adjust trying to find the best fit. From going back to the office full-time to hybrid models to working fully remote, options have been discussed and progressively adopted.
One question remains: Is there a more adequate working model? Well, I would say it depends...on what exactly? - you wonder.
A myriad of studies was conducted during the past three years, a considerable amount of them focusing on the benefits and consequences of working remotely. Despite its diversity, the results are quite interesting.
For some people, working from home is seen as positive and convenient. In a study from 2022 (George, TJ, et al.), 71% of the participants stated greater freedom and creativity since working from home, 59% mentioned a greater work-life balance, and 50% reported being more productive.
A different study (YA, TH et al., 2021) focusing on psychical and mental health shown curious results, a mixture between positive and negative effects of remote work. On the one hand, it shown a decrease in psychical and psychological stress as well as increase in medium- and high-intensity physical exercise. On the other hand, working from home increased the time seated to 70%. In addition, there was an increase in the consumption of addictive substances (tobacco and alcohol) as well as sugar intake.
These studies show that answering this question is not a simple task. The situation is not black and white. Furthermore, perspectives change for different people. How come working remotely may well be the perfect scenario for some, but rather a challenge for others?
There is one more study whose theme I find extremely interesting since it brings to the table the individuality factor. This study (Gavoille, N. & Hazans, M., 2022) is based on The Big Five - a personality trait model developed on the 1980s whose five factors are labeled as Consciousness, Openness to Experience, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
In simple terms, people who tend to be more disciplined and organized (consciousness) as well as more inventive and curious (openness to experience) showed a higher productivity and preference for working remotely. While people who are more outgoing and communicative (extraversion) as well as more friendly (agreeableness) are more productive while working at the office which is also their preferred workspace. (No correlation was found for the neuroticism trait). Considering the risk of oversimplifying, the reference will be shared for further consultation.
It is hard to say that there is a one size fits all. We are diverse and unique, and we surely have our own working preferences. What is yours? How do you perceive your role as an employee and the organization's role in designing the best way forward?