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The Health Risks Of Working From Home

Health Professionals are concerned about the health impacts of working from home.  Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States, wrote: “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Working from home often leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness.  

A 100% Work From Home (WFH) model may not be the ideal for many employees.  The focus on "Work / Life Balance" may need to be refocus on "Workstyle / Life Balance". A hybrid workstyle model with more time (20/80, 50/50?) in the office may be more benefitial for both employees and employers.  Impacts of 100% WFH may include the following:

Increased Sense of Isolation

Lack of Social Interaction: One of the most immediate and noticeable effects of WFH is the reduction in face-to-face interactions. Office environments naturally foster social interactions, from casual conversations to collaborative work sessions. The absence of these interactions can lead to feelings of isolation.

Remote Communication Barriers: While technology enables remote communication, it often lacks the richness of in-person interactions. Video calls and messaging can feel more transactional, leading to a sense of disconnection.

Mental Health Challenges

Loneliness: Extended periods of solitude can lead to loneliness, which is a significant risk factor for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Workers may feel disconnected not only from their colleagues but also from the broader company culture.

Stress and Burnout: Without the natural breaks and social support found in a traditional office, remote workers might experience higher levels of stress and burnout. The blurring of boundaries between work and home life can exacerbate this issue, making it harder for individuals to disconnect and recharge.

Productivity and Creativity

Impact on Collaboration: Solitude can hinder spontaneous collaboration and creativity. In-person interactions often lead to impromptu brainstorming sessions and problem-solving, which are harder to replicate in a remote setting.

Varied Productivity Levels: While some individuals thrive in solitude and find they are more productive without the distractions of an office, others may struggle with self-motivation and time management without the structure and social accountability provided by a traditional workplace.  This can lead to a loss of self-worth for the individual.

Long-Term Career Implications

Professional Development: Solitude can impact professional development opportunities. Networking, mentorship, and learning from colleagues are integral parts of career growth, which are less accessible in a remote work setting.

Visibility and Recognition: Workers might feel less visible to their managers and colleagues, potentially impacting recognition and career advancement. Being physically present in an office often leads to more opportunities for informal interactions that can boost one's profile within a company.

Implications For Employers

Employers offering or encouraging a 100% work from home employemnt model need to consider potential loss of productivity from some employees which may become more accute over time.  They also need to consider potential Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) liabilities.  A survey by The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) in 2023 found that stress was one of the biggest contributors to a rise in workplace absences over the past year, and the number of workers taking sick leave has hit a 10-year high.



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