Before COVID-19, working from home was a privilege afforded to tech industry workers like software engineers, developers, and freelancers. Almost overnight, remote work became a necessity, as people from industries like Finance, Marketing, Operations, and even Recruitment moved their offices into their homes. From remote work’s challenges to its array of perks, the question is; what can both employees and employers expect from this new way of working?
Work from home or home becomes work?
Working from home is easier said than done. Employees are struggling with the fact that they are busier than ever. According to business support company NordVPN Teams, after COVID-19, companies in the UK increased their work week by almost 25% and employees in the Netherlands started logging off at 8pm. So it appears that when you don’t physically leave the office, the work day never really ends. You can catch yourself tossing on a blazer for a Zoom call while sitting at your kitchen table in your PJs during breakfast, lunch or even dinner.
But there is always a bright side…
On the other hand, working from home can be beneficial. Other factors like commutes have a strain on employees, not to mention the fact that some employees would like to work from home with or without the pandemic. From the employers’ perspective, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that the ability to hire engineers further from their main offices has opened up new talent pools. This can be directly linked to the fact that restrictions on physical mobility correlate to an increase in flexibility and hiring opportunities.
However, while there are numerous advantages to working from home, there are also many opposing factors as mentioned earlier. Mental health, lack of community support and an increase in employee expenses top the list.
Reconnect with your life with the right to disconnect
With the risk of burnout and struggles looming large, desperate times called for not so desperate measures. In fact, countries like France, Spain and Germany have recently introduced the “right to disconnect” for employees’ mental and physical health while working from home. It provides employees with the ability to disconnect from work and primarily protects them from engaging in work-related electronic communications such as e-mails or messages outside of work hours. Even though it seems to be the ultimate solution when it comes to differentiating personal and professional life, officials in Portugal believe that there is still room for improvement. In early November 2021, the Portuguese government passed a rule that banned employers from messaging staff after work hours. Once employees are off the clock, employers are not allowed to text them anymore. So it seems like there is finally a legal right to say, “I have a life outside work” to your boss…
Portugal is raising the bar when it comes to working remote
Having evidently pioneered a movement, Portugal is dedicated to becoming a work from home paradise. Besides their tasty pastel de natas and idyllic sunny weather, they even designed a “digital nomad village” on the island of Madeira. Complete with free wifi and the luxuries of an office, this brand new pilot project aims to create a unique international community of digital nomads.
Following such revolutionary initiatives, the labor market needs to keep up with this new way of working. If not, the tough expectations demanded by employers might have a harmful impact on employees’ mental health and motivation. Despite the gifted few who work as effectively from the kitchen table as they do from the office, organisations shouldn’t have a free pass to zoom calls that interrupt family dinners. With that being said, perhaps the next step is either to move to Portugal, or to encourage governments to work side by side with businesses, to further promote work-life balance for all employees.