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Some Things You Just Can’t Learn From Working At Home

Is office work dead? There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic has accelerated the move to working remotely. But I fear what this is doing long term, especially to those young people right out of college and seminary who may never experience a work environment. Some of my very best work experiences were in college and seminary working as an intern in the local church and serving on staff at Ridgecrest and Glorieta Conference Centers during the summer. I received lessons from mentors, supervisors and peers that were priceless. Not only did I learn by direct coaching and mentoring, but I also learned by observing. I saw how teams were supposed to work, I saw what a strong work ethic really looked like, and I discovered I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Some things you can’t learn from a textbook or from working from home, they have to be experienced in a work setting to be learned.

Increasingly CEO’s, Managers, and Pastors are asserting that it is essential for workers to return to the office. They are citing things such as:

  • An office setting builds camaraderie and an esprit de corps.
  • Face-to-face conversations and in-person meetings are mission critical for many professions, particularly those in ministry.
  • Young employees require mentoring, guidance and direction.
  • Daily discussions that allow employees to feed off one another and create synergy is diminished when people are disconnected from one another

But this is anecdotal evidence. Let’s look at what recent surveys and polling is discovering.

Eight Big Downsides To Remote Work

There is plenty of evidence that there are definite benefits to remote work, including not having to commute, an improved work/life balance, and higher productivity. That said, the picture isn’t all positive. Recent surveys and research points to eight big downsides to working from home.

  1. More Meetings. According to the Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report, remote workers have to attend more meetings than on-site workers. While just 3% of office workers had more than 10 meetings per week, that was true of 14% of remote workers. And it takes an average remote employee eight emails to schedule a single meeting.
  2. Longer Hours. Research found that remote workers are more productive than their in-office peers. But multiple studies found that’s probably related to the fact that remote workers work longer hours. The Owl Labs State of Remote Work Report remote workers were 43% more likely to work more than 40 hours per week than on-site workers. It can be more difficult to mentally switch off at the end of the workday when work is at home, which can result in employees working longer hours.
  3. Increased Loneliness. There is now evidence that remote work can increase loneliness, isolation and boredom among workers.
  4. Blurred Boundaries. Many remote workers report they experience a blurring of boundaries between work and life.
  5. Less Trust. Recent research suggests it’s more difficult to establish trust over video compared to in-person interactions. Another recent study showed that most people had a harder time telling whether someone was lying on video. Further, existing research shows that people have a far easier time convincing someone to do something in-person than over email.
  6. More Difficult Collaboration. According to some researchers, remote workers have a harder time with problem solving and creativity than their in-office peers.
  7. Relationships Are Harder To Form. Polling indicates that remote workers find that without daily face to face connection it is hard to develop relationships with colleagues.
  8. There’s Less Ad Hoc Learning. Remote workers report that working from home requires extra effort to seek out networking and learning opportunities on their own.

Other Considerations

Employers should be aware of these additional potential factors when considering remote work.

  • Shaping or changing the organizational culture takes on a new level of complexity when the team is dispersed and can’t interact closely.
  • Employers may not be aware of employee dissatisfaction as quickly.
  • Remote work may mean increased computer security risks for the organization.
  • Tracking employee hours can be more difficult.
  • Preparing employees for remote work can have upfront costs employers may not have anticipated, like the need to pay for additional software, the need to keep more devices secure, or the need to upgrade tools and develop new processes to facilitate remote working and learning.

When considering which employees should work remotely, along with considering the downsides outlined above, you also need to consider the type of work that the employee performs, whether or not they will have access to the equipment needed to do their job, their home situation, and even their personal character traits and preferences. By analyzing these factors, you can make a decision that will work best for your office.

Posted on July 12, 2022

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5