The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to working from home, often in less than ideal circumstances.
Many employees had little choice in the decision, limited time to prepare, patchy technology skills, and inadequate home workspaces. Some managers neglected remote workers, while others zealously monitored them.
And yet some people thrived. Having tried it, many employees anticipate they will continue to work from home, and value employers who encourage it.
So if you decide to continue working from home after the pandemic, is it good or bad for your health in the long run?
Easy access to snacks meant some employees may have gained weight while working from home during the pandemic. Some employees stared at their screen for hours, sitting in awkward positions with no breaks.
But properly supported working from home could improve employees’ health. It enables them to work toward aspirational fitness goals by scheduling workouts at convenient times.
Commuting — especially by car in dense communities — exposes employees to air pollution and raises their risk of respiratory or cardiovascular problems. In theory, working from home should let employees breathe easier, both physically and psychologically. Avoiding the commute saves time and money, two crucial resources that can be channelled to improve the quality of employees’ personal lives.
However, the commute serves a valuable function that is often overlooked. It gives employees time to transition between work and non-work roles, which is especially important for people in difficult service and professional jobs.
Working from home can create opportunities for employees to engage in “deep work” — focusing on a demanding task without distraction. It helps employees fully engage with their work when they are working, and be more psychologically present with their family when they are not working.
Employees who work from home can intersperse their work and family time to benefit the entire family, for example by using a work break to read a story or share a meal. Quality moments of connection with parents have a more significant impact on children’s academic achievement, behaviour, and emotional well-being than the quantity of interactions.