Working and schooling from home is here to stay. This article looks at emerging work-from-home (WFH) trends. Both desk workers and students can gain advantages from these trends. By riding the wave of the new reality, users can work smarter, feel better, and be more productive.
Long commutes, crowded subways, and rush hour traffic are relics of a not-too-distant past. Improved work-life balance is another byproduct. Working in an office concentrates all work for the day into 8 or 10-hour blocks. Working from home, it’s easier to spread work out over twelve hours. That allows more time to focus on other things like kids, pets, and housework.
Another unforeseen emotional benefit of the work-from-home shift has been recognition of a need for authenticity. Working from home breaks down the barriers of social norms in the workplace. Remote conferencing lets us see into other’s homes, rather than through a corporate lens. This helps people to develop a better sense of empathy.
Working from home brings back a sense of power over our own lives. In fact, one survey found that 81% of workers would not consider a job without remote working opportunities.
Another survey done by Lenovo found that 72% felt more connected and productive while working from home.
Key work-from-home trends
There has been plenty of research conducted this year to assess the effects of the WFH shift. One of the most comprehensive was done by the Lenovo Intelligence Group. The study analyzed WFH effects in 10 markets: USA, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, Italy, China, India, and Japan.
Employees furnish their own hardware
The Lenovo study found that almost 70% of work-from-home employees have to fund their own tech upgrades. In America, the average work-from-home upgrade costs $348, while the global average is $273. That echoes the findings of a different UK poll. 52% of employees felt their employers need to invest in better WFH technology.
The bottom line is that most employees should not count on employers to fund WFH setups.
Increased aches and pains
Also in the Lenovo survey, 71% of respondents complained of new or worsening health issues. Common issues include headaches, neck pain, back pain, and difficulty sleeping. Between the need to self-cater and the rise of pain issues, having an effective work-from-home setup is essential.
Video-conferencing is taxing and stressful
Microsoft runs its own ergonomic research center called the Human Factors Lab. Earlier this year, the lab conducted a WFH conferencing study among 13 teams of two people each. All participants worse EEG devices to monitor brainwave activity.
The results found brainwave markers associated with stress highest during video meetings. Over longer meetings, fatigue sets in at around 30 minutes. When employees face a day with many scheduled meetings, the suffer more stress than usual. It also listed several ways the conferencing causes stress:
- Having to stay (and look) engaged while staring at a screen for long periods.
- Reduced non-verbal cues make it hard to read the room or know when to talk.
- In multi-person conferences, you get a very small view of the person you are talking to.
The lab recommended a few tips to reduce these stressors. First, limit online meetings to 30 minutes. If they go longer, stop for breaks before continuing. Second, take regular breaks away from the computer. That will give your brain the time it needs to recharge.
To learn more about how short breaks boost productivity, check this feature:
Pros and cons
From an employee perspective, there are positives and negatives to deal with in the WFH era. Here is a summary:
Pro: improved work-life balance
A World Economic Forum (WEF) survey yielded several WFH positives. Among them:
- Flexible work schedule.
- Freedom to work from any location.
- No commuting.
- More time to spend with family.
A study of 1000 workers in the US and UK also found a very positive response. 85% of workers found improved work-life balance. 80% reported feeling healthier, less tired, and more human.
In fact, the study concluded that workers won’t want to give up this balanced lifestyle in the future. As a result, companies will need to cater to this shift, rather than fight against it.
Con: disconnection, burnout, lonliness
The WEF survey also found some negatives. 22% found that unplugging from work was more difficult. For many, commuting was their cue to switch off. Without that cue, they struggle. 19% reported struggling with loneliness, while 17% struggled to collaborate.
Another survey of 1,000 UK office workers found similar issues. 42% found communication with colleagues to be more difficult when done online. The same amount found home distractions (like kids and pets) to be a major distraction. 31% complained that their lack of a quality workstation impeded their productivity.
A good workstation lies at the heart of a successful work=from-home setup. In some cases, you can count on your employer to furnish you with a chair, desk, computer, and peripherals.
In most cases, it’s up to the employee to furnish their own setup.
That leaves you with two options that will both have a huge impact on your performance.
The first option is to use the tools provided by your employer. If they’re not up to pro standards, you can expect to suffer from a host of issues. For instance, if you use a cheap chair, prepare to endure chronic back pain. Those with a slow computer can waste hours each day waiting on loading times. A cheap monitor can lead to eye strain and chronic migraines.
The second option is to build your own workstation. Start with a good workstation computer. Add some external monitors to boost productivity. Ensure healthy posture support with a good ergonomic chair. With your workstation in order, apply some feng shui to maximize positive energy flows.
Finally, take lots of breaks. With the right equipment and proper habits, expect to feel better, work harder and be more productive.