Could the disadvantages of working from home outweigh the benefits? With organizations having their workforce shift back to the office with the gradual re-opening of economies, does that mean that homeworking is not tenable? The only logical conclusion when you see organizations recalling their employees from the current working from home (WFH) to onsite work models, is that remote working is no longer viable!?

Initially, we resigned to teleworking because of its unexpected benefits, such as reduced risk of infections, flexibility and convenience and increased productivity. Employees are gradually becoming apathetic, and they want to go back to the office. Could it be that WFH may not be all it’s cracked up to be, at least for some job functions?

Professional and personal lives mash up

Working remotely means that our professional and personal lives are imperceptibly intertwined. It is one of the top disadvantages of working from home. To make matters worse, most of our abodes do not have suitable work environments; a home office that you may effectively execute your work. We end up converting our living or dining rooms into workspaces. You can only imagine the level of distraction and discomfort in such a set-up!

Physiological and psychological discomfort

It goes without saying that our home living arrangements makes working from home a sub-optimal experience. Consequently, the WFH set-up is mired with its limited space, lack of privacy and distractions. Yet another one of the disadvantages of working from home. The additional stress and strain on the employee may be in the form of:

  • Poor lighting;
  • Inadequate ventilation;
  • Uncomfortable furniture;
  • Frequent distractions from family noise;
  • Reduced work-life-play balance;
  • The presence of other members at home can intrude on the privacy required for certain focused tasks, which eventually affects productivity;

This will inevitably affect one’s throughput and ultimately lead to burnout as a result of working longer hours each day, to ensure quality work.

Burnout and fatigue

A new poll from anonymous workplace chat app Blind suggests that about 68% of tech workers are feeling more burnt out at home than when they did while working in an office, while 60% report working more hours than they were pre-pandemic. This gives credence to the World Health Organization {WHO} warning that people have started experiencing COVID-19 fatigue. Of course, this is courtesy of teleworking!

Lack of networking and career stunting

When in the office, it is easier to network and position oneself for career acceleration. That is not necessarily the case when working from home, especially if you don’t have strong social and professional networks. This therefore makes working remotely to be alienating and one may feel that their career is getting stunted.

Employees generally want to excel at their place of work, which is made possible by the support structure, collaboration and friendship of colleagues. It is challenging to nurture this experience online. The young people who’ve recently joined the workforce on the WFH model, are at a risk of being unknown and as a result may easily be overlooked for promotions.

Lack of human connection

There are certain human attributes that technology cannot effectively mimic, which makes working from the office quite appealing. These include but are not limited to face-to-face collaboration, social interactions with fellow colleagues and mentoring.

After you’ve left the ready-made social environment of school, an office is a natural place to look for new people with whom you may share your interests and outlook to life. However, with no place to go to but just as many professional obligations, people working from home might have the flexibility to do everything except make new friends. Remote work is not a substitute for organic interaction.

Moreover, solving complex problems requires creativity and innovation, which cannot be replicated by technology. This certainly requires high-performing collaboration and is difficult to achieve when teammates work in multi-locations. No man is an island entire of itself!

Management paranoia

A recent survey by the Federation of Kenya Employers {FKE} showed that a majority 43% of the surveyed firms had less than 20% of staff members working from home. Only 25% of the firms had made plans to permanently increase the levels of staff working from home to at least one day per week. 23% of the firms indicated that they were very unlikely to make any adjustments to fit the new mode of work.

From the findings of this poll, are employers ready to fully espouse remote working? There seems to be an inherent phobia for organizations to give their employees a free rein with respect to where they report for work. Suffice to say, the local and global success of WFH is majorly anchored on the degree of management paranoia.

Lack of mental wellness

Predictions of an upcoming mental health crisis have been made since the start of the pandemic. There are many people who have been cut off from their usual support networks which makes them vulnerable to greater stress and anxiety. Eighty-percent of respondents to a survey of young people in the UK for the mental health charity Young Minds said coronavirus had made their mental health worse.

Yet another recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that Gen-Z adults were the hardest hit by the mental health consequences of the pandemic. Gen Z adults, those aged 18 to 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations and were the most likely age group to report symptoms of depression, according to the APA’s 2020 Stress in America survey.

So why is Gen-Z hit so hard with stress and depression during the pandemic? They are “experiencing adulthood at a time when the future looks uncertain,” while older generations might have more perspective that enables them to cope with the changes, according to the report.

According to Kevin Antshel, the Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Clinical Psychology Program at Syracuse University, fear and anxiety tend to run hand-in-hand. “The more things are uncertain, the more we’re going to fear, and the more we fear things, the more we are anxious,” he said. Moreover, prolonged anxiety can lead to depression.

Sum up

From the foregoing, there seem to be numerous disadvantages of working from working from home. If anything WFH is a necessary evil, an arduous obligation of sorts, which you don’t have a way out, because of the prevailing pandemic crisis. What makes teleworking so discomforting is the fact that there is minimal to no face-to-face human connection?

Food for thought

Human connection is the one in-office work element that is impossible to replicate in any remote set-up. The routine, casual interactions amongst colleagues is vital. The Vice President of Strategic Technology at Hachette Book Group, Ryan Pugatch, summed it up by saying “lots of problems are solved through informal communication.” It’s now widely understood that occasional workplace idleness can actually accelerate productivity. Isolation and loneliness have been exacerbated by school closures, social distancing protocols, curfews and lockdowns. We have an innate desire to socialize, enjoy culture and share experiences, but the long and short of it is that WFH is bleak. These countless and weighty demerits suggest that WFH is infeasible. What are your thoughts?

The author is a management consultant with Global Strategy Consultants and can be reached on

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