Working from home is far from a new invention, but it took a global pandemic to switch from in-person office workplaces to remote work as the default for people who can reasonably work from a home office. Work will likely move partially back to the office as in-person work becomes possible again. But how much of our work should return to the office? With both upsides and downsides to remote work, research points to a hybrid model (with the majority of time spent remotely) as the most promising direction.
The Upsides of Remote Work
The flexibility of remote work is good for caregivers, both men and women taking care of children and elders. But it has benefits to non-caregiver workers as well, including increased productivity, enhanced job satisfaction, and lower exhaustion.
Researchers from Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight found in a 2020 study of Brazilian government employees that 82% of them would like to spend at least one day of the week working remotely. And the benefits extend to financial savings as well. “According to the Secretary Lenhart, teleworking has the potential to contribute to the reduction of costs in the public sector — it has saved at least $21 million during these last four months due to the pandemic.”
The most popular reasons people prefer remote work are better work-life balance (91%), increased productivity and better focus (79%), less stress (78%) and avoiding a commute (78%). And while commuting is considered the most miserable part of the day for many, causing stress and health issues (not to mention its environmental impact), there is a silver lining that has disappeared along with the traditional commute. The commute helps to break up the day, creating a psychological barrier between home and work life. To get this benefit while working from home without all the negative consequences, some have taken it upon themselves to create an artificial commute, spending just 15 minutes each day to plan their workday and time at the end of the day to transition back to home life. Researcher Nina Bartmann recommends that the average 9-to-5 knowledge worker hide their laptop at the end of the day, change in and out of “work clothes,” and take a quick walk before and after work (which doubles as a source of exercise for an energy boost)!