WFH folly

We are human beings and our mental and physical wellbeing depends on human contact. It also depends on clear boundaries between work and home


By Kevin-James Fenech

Kevin is the founder and owner of JOB Search - and FENCI Consulting

Working from home (WFH) is pure post-COVID-19 folly.

I know that right now WFH is the latest fad; the trend to follow. I mean everyone is talking about it, including the government, as if it is a progressively ‘good’ work practice.

I’ve heard HR people say, that one good thing about the pandemic is that it has accelerated the pace of WFH policies and practices.

HR gurus writing in HRM journals, talk about the ‘new normal’ and point towards a future workplace i.e. post-COVID-19 which will embrace and celebrate WFH for ‘all’ employees. Zoom meetings from the kitchen adjacent to ones’ children who incidentally are also attending ‘virtual school’. WFH is almost a ‘gift’ to workers all over the world!

Honestly. What a load of nonsense. Wake up! Use your common sense.

I actually believe that once the pandemic is over, employees will be begging their employers to let them back at the physical workplace so that they can escape ‘home prison’.

WFH is taking its toll on working families and the term ‘burnout’ will soon become a ‘workplace’ reality. You simply can not be an employee, parent and husband/wife/partner at home 24/7; doing everything from home. It is simply detrimental for employees’ mental wellbeing.

Second only to personal relationships, work is the most important determinant of quality of life. I mean we spend one-third of every day working, another third living our life and the last third sleeping.

So no wonder that work is an important determinant of quality of life. You push people towards a ‘home prison’ and that quality of life deteriorates at an accelerated rate.

You enjoy a good quality of life when you have a balance between the outside, working at the workplace and being at home. The moment one has to spend two-thirds (or more) of their time at their ‘home prison’ is the very juncture that you devalue that same quality of life.

Research shows that more than two-thirds (69%) of employees are suffering from burnout and this growing trend is impacting both business productivity as well as the overall health of the workforce. Added to the burnout, we also have ‘pandemic fatigue’.

Before some of you dismiss ‘burnout’ or play it down, let it be known that it is linked to all sorts of physical and mental conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and even Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t underestimate WFH burnout.

I mean you don’t have to be a genius to realise that if you are single and live on your own then WFH will over time mean you isolate yourself from human contact since everything is done virtually from your ‘home prison’.

You no longer look forward to putting on your work clothes and driving to work and interacting with human beings be they co-workers or customers at the workplace.

No, you have to stay at home and work! WFH therefore leads to loneliness which reduces life expectancy by anything as high as 70%.

Likewise if you are a parent, you never get to ‘switch off’ from the family, since you now have to both work and enjoy your free time in the exact same living place. You lose the boundary or the transition from one boundary to another; from ‘home you’ and ‘work you’.

‘Workhome’ is therefore a place where you both work and ‘enjoy’ your free time. The problem is that when you force the two worlds (work + home) together to create ‘workhome’ it becomes a mental prison and what tends to happen is that you increasingly find it difficult to disconnect. You also tend to work more (on average three hours more per day).

This is why balance in ones’ life is a gift. We used to talk of ‘work-life-balance’ pre-COVID19 and this was made possible because people actually went into work and interacted with people and this directly contributed to such ‘balance’.

But now, with the pandemic, WFH is being encouraged because the doctors are seemingly running the show and they only care about the coronavirus with a 0.6% mortality rate and ignore the mental effects of WFH burnout and the loneliness caused by people marooned at their ‘home prison’.

I predict that with herd immunity achieved in Q3 2021 (maybe even earlier), people will want to go back to the workplace in their droves. People will have had enough of WFH; the novelty would have worn off and the accumulated stress of WFH becoming painfully obvious.

We are human beings and our mental and physical wellbeing depends on human contact. It also depends on clear boundaries between work and home. So please let’s not push this WFH too far or get ahead of ourselves. Let’s use our common sense and treat WFH as a temporary necessary evil for some.

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