De-stress to avoid WFH distress

Three months ago, when I walked into the office after four months of lockdown & Work from Home (WFH), I was surprisingly feeling happy. Covid-19 changed our life in a variety of ways – The way we think, the way we live, the way we plan our future and most importantly the way we work in corporates life.

Six months ago, WFH was a complete unknown concept to many Indian corporates. Today, it is an integral part of corporate life. Technology enabled many to work seamlessly via WFH in this pandemic; so much so that many are planning to shift a large part of their workforce in WFH model.

The thought is intriguing and warrants research. It always good to understand WFH in two parts – Work Efficiency and Mental wellbeing as each parameter is vital for long term productivity of employees.

When it came to work efficiency, the results were very encouraging as most professionals believed that efficiency increased while working from home. The key highlights of WFH are –

  • Ability to spend more time with family
  • Freedom from everyday office commutes & traffic
  • Flexibility to plan the day
  • Clarity on allocation of work

The signs were so encouraging that many companies have either shifted to WFH model or are planning use it for the future.

On the other hand, the survey results of the mental wellbeing are glaring. While WFH increased efficiency, it also caused mental exhaustion. Most respondents (almost 90%) complained of mental exhaustion & increase in stress levels while WFH. They highlighted that WFH led to –

  • Loss of personal space
  • Increased Infighting and bickering between the family
  • Disturbed work life balance
  • Increase in mental stress
  • Feelings of being left out of the team
  • Distraction
  • Lack of Dedicated Workspace at home leading to discomfort
  • Depression

These results are alarming and if true then WFH model is surely affecting the mental health of the workforce. This is going to be the biggest challenge for HRs across the company. (Maybe I will try to cover it separately)

Now, I was perplexed by survey results of WFH. On the work part of it, it is surely increasing the efficiency but on the other hand it is leading to stress and in some cases distress in employees. I was more surprised to know that many leading companies are planning to shift their larger pool of workforce in WFH model permanently in future. If it is adding to the stress to the employee, then why? While finding its answer was important but how to get this info was difficult. After all, even though WFH is new to India, globally in US or Europe people have been following it efficiently and happily since years.

So, what is the reason that in India, people are under stress while WFH? I tried to connect with a few of my old friends and ex-colleagues who have been working from home since well before the lockdown. When I asked them how well they had adapted to it, their answer stumped me. They too were increasingly getting mentally stressed WFH in this pandemic. Pre-Covid, they found it great.

My curiosity about the pros and cons of WFH and WFO (Work from Office) ended up growing more.

My further research & analysis concluded that stress in WFH has a lot to do the environment. I realized people who were WFH pre-covid didn’t have high stress as they were able to vent out the stress. Human beings are social in nature and can’t live away from others for a long time. If any isolation is forced, it leads to stress.  During pre-covid days, While WFH- people have a fulfilling social circle and can spend time with family and friends. They are free to go to markets, shopping, family functions, vacations, travel around the world and all these activities help them maintain their connect to the world.  Social activities helped them vent out stress. WFO indirectly provides opportunities to employees to be part of a larger, personalized social family.

Stress and unhappiness don’t have much to do with WFH or WFO, it has a lot to do with one’s social circles. Although we are digitally connected with each other, yet miles away from real world connections which help us de-stress.

So once the Covid-19 pandemic is over (and I pray it should get over as soon as possible), people will have much lesser stress, anxiety levels when compared to the current time in WFH. So, I advise – keep your social circle up and running. This pandemic will be over soon, till then just stay connected. It will give strength and help us all overcome the pandemic with far lower stress.

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