The downsides of working from home

The downsides of working from home

Homeworking was a nice idea in theory, but the events of the last few months have shown many that it’s not a practical long-term solution. However, that doesn’t mean businesses have to abandon remote work altogether…

Before COVID-19, working from home was seen as the holy grail of working environments by many.

A couple of months later and the reality had become clear – there are downsides to working in the place you live – not just for your productivity, but to your health and wellbeing, too.

With many businesses now exploring the possibility of adopting remote working practices permanently, it’s time to take a closer look at the limitations of homeworking and why they matter.

People confuse it with remote working

“Working from home and remote working aren't the same,” says Jason Aten, tech columnist at Inc.  “One is considered a benefit, while the other is simply a way of working. Working from home is a temporary situation, while remote working is an entirely different approach to getting things done.”

He suggests that when businesses, employers and even colleagues don’t understand the difference, it can have a negative effect on the status and inclusion of remote workers: “No one forgets to include the boss on an email just because he worked from home yesterday. He still has an office right over there, and you know that if you mess something up, you'll probably be invited in for a conversation. The same isn't always true when you work remotely, especially if you aren't the boss.”

Homeworking makes it harder to concentrate

Working from your living room sofa or kitchen table makes it both harder to concentrate and harder to detach when the day is over, say the experts.

“If you typically work in an office, the routines and cues you have at work that signal to your brain that you will be starting a session of concentrated work (like taking the elevator up to your office) aren't there,” says Alice Boyes Ph.D in Psychology Today. “This is [a] factor that is likely to be making it hard for you to concentrate and focus on work.”

It leads to loneliness

It may sound obvious, but it’s important for organisations to remember that workers are people – and, as such, require social interaction during the workday, at least some of the time.

“If you have a full social life and an intellectually stimulating job, it can be a really good thing to work from home,” says Dr Lucy Atcheson, a London-based counselling psychologist, speaking to “But if you struggle with social anxiety, working from home can exacerbate that. Worlds are shrinking and people don’t have the space. Our comfort zones can become smaller and, as we get more confined, issues feel so much more on the surface."

Speaking to People Matters, Professor Deepa Bapat points out that one of the main benefits to workplaces insisting on being physically present at work is that it ensures a clear division between work and home, making it much easier to keep your work and home life separate. “The concept of working from home disrupts this clear separation of space,” she explains. “Something that has long been associated with feelings of relaxation and calm suddenly bears connotations of work, stress and perhaps a whole host of other stress-provoking adjectives.”

It could negatively affect your health

A multi-country study by the Eurofound and the International Labour Office found that there were multiple health risks for people who worked from home, including isolation; and burnout. What’s more, a lack of appropriate equipment in a home office can also lead to other health concerns, including neckache, eye strain and tendon pain in the wrists and fingers.

And that’s not all. The same study found that of regular at-home workers, 42% said they suffered from insomnia compared with only 29% of their colleagues at the office.

It can limit creativity

“Even in Silicon Valley, where the tools that allow for remote work are being built, many companies are strict about requiring their workers to come into the office,” reports The New York Times. That’s because they believe that creativity and innovation take place when people interact in person.

Steve Jobs was famously not a fan of homeworking, believing that people needed to bump into each other accidentally in order to have their best ideas. “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions,” he once said. “You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

Distributed workforces will be the new normal as businesses reduce risk and benefit from remote working. Flex and distribute your workforce using our portfolio of workspace solutions.