Home sweet home?! How working from home affects your body and mind
“Home office – When everything annoys you” reads a recent headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Something we once eagerly longed for seems to be a controversial topic today: Working from home.
At present, one in four Germans works exclusively from home: that’s 10.5 million professionals. Another 20% are not at their home office every day of the week, but only some days. This means that every second person (45%) is currently working from home. Figures published by the digital association Bitkom some time ago confirm this.
Something we had been fighting for, something we could only dream about, suddenly became our reality as of March 2020. But now we’re starting to feel different about working from home.
In the “Report on the Anatomy of Work 2021“, Asana, a producer of American work organisation software, unveiled some alarming figures: based on the surveys, 71% of employees suffered from burnout symptoms in 2020, and 87% did overtime in the home office.
Why is it that the once much sought-after home office suddenly poses a threat to our mental and physical health? And, more importantly, can we find ways to make good use of our new-found freedom and remain balanced in the process?
This article addresses the questions above and looks at the advantages and disadvantages of the New Work movement. Employers, employees and the self-employed alike will have to address these issues in the near future and find a way to keep body and mind in balance.
Team Pro: Why we just love the home office
- Greater flexibility leaves more room for your private life.
In the past, we used to postpone appointments, hobbies and household chores until the weekend or after work, but in the home office we can plan our tasks more freely and independently. This way you can also take care of important events in between. In a survey by Bitkom, six out of ten respondents said that the home office helps them achieve a better work-life balance.
- More focus leads to greater productivity.
You’ve probably experienced this too: in the middle of a task, a colleague comes up and starts talking to you from the side. And the flow is gone, just like that. If this happens several times a day, you are likely to fall behind with your daily to-do list.
The nice thing about the home office is that no one interrupts your workflow like that, which is why many of us feel more productive here. According to a survey by Bitkom , every fourth person thinks their productivity in the home office is “significantly higher”, and every third person thinks it’s “somewhat higher”.
- More personal space is an opportunity to retreat.
Working within your own four walls also means enjoying more privacy. Especially for people who are more introverted, this can be a real blessing and result in less stress.
While you might otherwise sit in an open-plan office and hear the private phone calls of your colleagues next to you, at home you can concentrate fully on yourself. This offers plenty of time to retreat and improves stress resistance.
- More time saved allows room for leisure.
Many people are glad about the extra time they have because they no longer commute to work. We can use it for so many things: walks in the neighbourhood or in the forest, a looong morning routine, time with the family or precious me-time.
When asked about the positive experiences of respondents in the home office, 80 percent answered in the Bitkom survey that they experience less stress because they no longer need to commute.
- Greater trust and less control.
Managers in particular are learning one thing from this new set-up: to let go sometimes, because in the home office they no longer have their employees in sight. There is far less control than in the office and one is forced to practice trust.
Being able to trust employees has a positive effect on their personal development and contributes to their willingness to take on more responsibility.
Team Contra: What are the downsides of the home office?
- Constant loneliness makes us feel isolated.
Humans thrive on connecting and interacting with each other – both physically and mentally. It is crucial for our well-being. Numerous studies have shown this.
Many employers have had to transition to a home office setting so quickly that they are still struggling with the technical challenges instead of thinking about how to bring people and teams closer together.
When there are no opportunities for meaningful exchange, we feel isolated and left alone. This can lead to depressive phases, dejection down and lack of motivation.
It is therefore the responsibility of every employer to create a space for exchange and to give employees – especially digitally – a feeling of understanding, warmth and cohesion.
- Fewer opportunities for exchange make achievements less visible.
In the office, we exchange ideas more often, so we are better aware of the workload and projects of our colleagues and can keep track of them. This is a good opportunity to celebrate successes together and to recognise each other for accomplished tasks.
It’s not the case in the home office because we are on our own more and have less opportunity for exchanging ideas. This can contribute to our achievements and successes falling under the radar and simply being overlooked. In the long term, self-confidence can suffer and motivation can flounder.
- Chaos caused by a lack of organisation can make us feel stressed.
In the office, you could turn to the person sitting next to you to ask a question, but today you’d schedule a meeting. Often, our schedule is full of meetings and we have little time for actual work.
Asana’s report “Anatomy of Work 2021” underscores this statement. Not fully understanding roles, responsibilities and objectives results in more messages, meetings and tools that only confuse us more. According to the report, 13% of working time is spent on tasks that have already been completed – compared to 10% in 2019.
- Less interaction means we let our needs slide.
The fact that there are days when no one sees us makes us let ourselves down more often and not listen to the needs of our body and mind quite as well.
We pay less attention to the things that do us good. Whether it’s taking a long shower in the morning, putting on lots of lotion and dressing up in something other than pyjamas or jogging bottoms.
Taking responsibility for our bodies can fall by the wayside, which in turn leads to more sluggishness, unproductivity and less stamina – both mentally and physically.
How lack of physical exercise shrivels the spirit
Many sports physicians have raised concerns about this global trend. They predict that lack of physical activity in the long run will lead to a rise in serious conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
According to the German Cancer Research Centre, 7% of all deaths are directly associated with a lack of physical activity. They fear the home office will contribute to more deaths from lack of exercise if employers, employees and the self-employed do not counteract this.
These statements and figures made our ears prick up as well. That’s why we sat down together and thought about how we can make a positive impact to encouraging you to exercise more, and launched the Pimp your Home Office Step Challenge.
The idea: Join companies like Zalando, Würth and many more to count your steps from 1 to 31 March. Our motto: Let’s beat the home office blues together. You could win prizes to transform your home office space into a work paradise where you enjoy sitting down at your desk in the morning.
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Then have a look at our campaign page and register!
Home office: How do we turn the tide?
At first, a lot of us jumped for joy, but gradually we began to see the darker side of the home office. Critical voices are getting louder and louder and raise legitimate questions that employers, in particular, need to address.
As with all things in life, it is the same with the home office: the dose makes the poison. Each person is unique and has specific needs.
So it’s important to be mindful and ask yourself what makes your mind and body happy. It could be a morning walk, a lunch away from technology, an uplifting conversation with a colleague, or getting enough exercise in order to stay balanced. It is also important here that you listen carefully to what your body and mind whisper to you.
We can promise you one thing: We will do our best to support you – be it with our Step Challenge or with the courses in our Humanoo App. Together we can do this!
We wish you lots of happy days in the home office. Thank you for letting us accompany you.
Your Humanoo Team