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TELECOMMUTING DOWNSIDES: #EMBA27

Ikenna Ngonebu Written by Ikenna Ngonebu · 2 min read >

The Covid-19 Pandemic brought a whole new set of problems and ways of living beyond what we were used to. We could no longer shake hands or hug each other and seats in public places were interspaced. The use of hand sanitizers became a global phenomenon. Travel restrictions have proliferated and the way we worked have changed fundamentally.

Working from home or telecommuting has become a way to function without exposing oneself to Covid-19. Though telecommuting is not necessarily new, it has become more widespread due to the advent of this pandemic.

Below, I would share my personal opinion and perspective about the downsides for employees and companies, of this new way of working .

Impact on Company Culture

Companies devote lots of resources and trainings to build a particular culture within their organization. That way of life is expected to thrive and is managed a lot with direct interactions between the leadership team and employees. Working remotely tends to dilute this as colleagues do not meet each other regularly and needed trainings end up being done remotely, with reduced impact.

I have seen employees of companies significantly deviate from these set cultures due to lack of regular physical interactions and mentoring. On top of this, some organizations have not properly evolved and are not deliberate in ensuring their company culture thrives with the employees in this virtual world.

Team Interactions and Networking

Networking, team building, and other workplace social interactions are impacted negatively when teams work remotely. When most people are in the office, a lot of team bonding is built over lunchtime, for example, or just walking to someone’s desk to greet. One can even be on the desk and a colleague could pass by and can quickly catch up on some discussion. Though some of these ad hoc interactions could be a distraction to in-office setting, they still foster team building.

However, with telecommuting, you would have to either schedule a meeting or call on the phone just to speak to someone even for a few seconds. Mentoring, trainings, interactions are done virtually, and could be less impactful then face to face sessions.

It implies, therefore, that companies with virtual teams have to invest in innovative solutions to ensure team interactions and networking continues to foster.

Delayed Feedback and Response Time

Lots of man-hours are lost just to establish or confirm basic details from colleagues when telecommuting. With everyone is in the office, one can easily practically tap on the colleague’s shoulder or just walk to someone’s office for a quick discussion or to address some concerns. However, over the last 2 years, I have seen situations where lots of time is spent just trying to connect with colleagues within companies whose employees work remotely. With delayed response time comes reduced efficiency and performance of the business. In addition, this could lead to frustrations in some cases if teams are not disciplined enough to respect working hours even when they are remote.

Company work Adaptation, frequent meetings, and feedback sessions within teams could reduce this time wastage.

Loneliness and Mental Stress.

This serious health concern has been flagged by multiple psychologists and human resource experts. In a 2020 study published in the European International Journal of Public Sector Management, they found out that telecommuting negatively impacted the work-life balance of public servants. It leads to work-related fatigue and mental imbalances.1

In another study, telecommuting has been found to lead to “Shrinking from the home” impacting negatively on the family.2 Employees work long hours and are no longer seem limited to the usual “9-5”. It appears they continue working even late into the night since there is no physical end to the workday. Family time, relationships, and other social evening engagements take the hit at the end.

Additionally, many other studies have also highlighted the deterioration of employee mental and physical health in addition to the loneliness of working for hours, isolated in one’s room alone. Hence, there is a need for clear guidelines to optimize worker outcomes and wellbeing within all organizations where significant employees telecommute.

Conclusion

Irrespective of the challenges, working from home still presents great benefits for the employee and organizations as a whole. However, the entire process has to be well managed and structured within the organization, taking adequate measures to negate the undesired impacts enumerated above. When managed properly, I have witnessed improved productivity and dedication in teams that work remotely.

  1. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJPSM-06-2020-0150/full/html
  2. https://academic.oup.com/qje/article-abstract/130/1/165/2337855

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