working from home

The recent publication of an internal memo from Yahoo has sparked renewed controversy over the issue of working from home. From June this year Yahoo employees will be banned from working from home and have to come into the office daily.

Employers and employees are divided over the issue of home working – some believe that working from home is the future of business, while others consider it to be damaging to productivity. Wording from the Yahoo memo would suggest that they side with the latter, stating, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”.

Meanwhile, the majority of businesses are working to increase flexibility for employees and working from home is encouraged in many countries to help with the work/life balance and support families. Whatever your opinion, working from home is becoming increasingly common but it does present many potential dangers to mental health.

I’m always at work

Working from home has many benefits: no commuting, home comforts and none of the distractions of the office. However, if your home is your office it can be hard to ‘switch off’ outside of office hours. A study published in the Monthly Labor Review (Profs M Noonan & J Glass: June, 2012) found that employees work between five to seven hours more at home than they would in an office setting. Workers can spend a large part of their evenings thinking about work with the temptation to ‘just finish off that project’.

If your work and home life is blurred try to have a separate space or room that you work in. Once the day is done close the door on your home office – out of sight helps greatly with out of mind.  If you’re really struggling to separate to two, think about spending a few more days in the office.

I have to prove that I’m working

This can be a common reason to work longer hours and relates to the point above. Home workers often have a fear that colleagues and managers won’t believe that they are working so they must prove it. It’s a common assurance to send emails late at night or early in the morning to prove to others that you are at your desk. However, this can have a detrimental impact on our mental health with the stress of having to prove yourself making us less productive!

If it was true that you weren’t working, it is likely that your manager would notice that deadlines aren’t met and work isn’t done. Don’t become your own worst enemy and get caught up in this cycle. Working from home requires boundaries to be set between personal and work time. Free-time is needed to recharge batteries and rest so that we can be more productive when we are at work.

geishaboy500 / Foter.com / CC BY

geishaboy500 / Foter.com / CC BY

People don’t see it as real work

Working from home can be seen as a bit of a ‘skive’ or ‘not real’ work. Family and friends can have difficulty understanding that you are working and ask for favours or pop around for a cup of tea during working hours. Young children can also find it hard to understand that you are working. This can have a negative impact on your mood if you are constantly justifying why you can’t do something or if you feel guilty for not doing something. In the long-term this could lead to resentment of others or feeling inadequate about your work.

Help others understand by setting clear boundaries and communicate with them so that everyone is clear of the rules when you’re working. Ask yourself if you would answer your mobile in the office, if you wouldn’t then try not to at home. Be as consistent as possible with children so that they know the rules too.

It’s lonely

One of the biggest downsides of working from home is the possibility of feeling isolated and being disconnected from work colleagues. With a lot of communication done via email it can be easy go for long periods without actually talking to colleagues.

Overcome isolation by having real-time communication by phone or video chats and consider splitting your time between the office and home.  Staying connected to your workplace and colleagues makes you feel like a valued part of the company and increases motivation.

Changes may be underway at Yahoo but with such a wave of public backlash, both international and within Yahoo, it seems unlikely that working from home will disappear anytime soon.

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