It’s Monday morning, you have just finished positioning yourself comfortably on your couch with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and your laptop in the other, getting ready to attend your first meeting of the day. Does that sound familiar? A year ago, a scenario like this would’ve felt like an unattainable dream but today, almost a year after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, work from home has become a reality for many.
The Coronavirus pandemic brought with it a wave of major changes, among which was the transition from physical workplaces to remote work. As a matter of fact, according to research carried out by Stanford in 2020, a staggering 42 percent of the workforce in the United States alone was working from home full-time; a statistic that is expected to have risen since then. Companies have had to change and adapt operations in order to align with remote working conditions enforced due to COVID, and there is no doubt about the advantages and disadvantages that have emerged as a result of these circumstances.
During the initial stages of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty due to lack of knowledge and experience regarding dealing with such a large scale, global crisis and as a result, people found relief in being able to work from comfort and safety of their homes. In some cases, people felt that since they were no longer commuting to work on a daily basis, they were actually saving on expenses, which was a relief especially in times of a pandemic. Furthermore, individuals with additional roles such as those of being primary caregivers, were able to better manage their plethora of responsibilities, hence ensuring the wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones. However, as effective as work from home/remote work has proven during the special and difficult times of COVID, it may not be a viable, long-term option.
We are all well aware of the challenges that the year 2020 posed at us, but the silver lining in the midst of it all was the way it educated and enlightened us about ourselves. In particular, something that became evident through human behavior over the past year is that while people are careful to abide by the rules and regulations, as soon as they see restrictions being relaxed, the natural human tendency of socializing and interacting with others takes over. For instance, in many countries, the shopping malls that were attracting less traffic prior to COVID, due to factors such as online shopping, noticed a record increase in the number of shoppers once COVID-related restrictions were relaxed. This reflects the inevitable need for socializing and being part of a community that humans have had since the beginning of time, which further highlights the importance of traditional workplaces.
The success-driven world that we live in today has resulted in people who have built their entire life and identity around their career and while it has its drawbacks, it allows them to work and interact with others, which for some people is their sole opportunity to socialize. However, this isn’t the only reason. The need for social interaction in humans has been reinforced time and again, the lack of which in the current situation has had a dire effect on the mental health of many and is a testament to its unwavering importance.
Where work from home is being discussed, the mention of video conferencing platforms such as ‘Zoom’ is unavoidable because of how convenient they have made it for people to stay connected and employed amidst the pandemic. On the flip side, I recently came across the concept of ‘Zoom Fatigue’; a term given to the exhaustion and worry that the pandemic brought with it as a result of the excessive use of virtual communication platforms. The constant connectivity has made work from home possible in the current scenario but it has also made it difficult for people to disconnect and relax, resulting in increased levels of stress and anxiety.
The Coronavirus Pandemic is unlike anything our generation has ever experienced before, and work from home was one of the many coping mechanisms we had to resort to in order to master the ‘new normal’. It was a necessary decision that proved its success in the short run, however, its continued practice may not be a feasible option in the long run.