Remote work is consistently touted as the best way for workers to feel mentally and physically well. But the reality is more complicated.

Cat was offered a fully remote role last year and didn’t think twice about accepting. Cat, who lives in London and works in environmental services, had already been telecommuting for some time as a result of the swine flu. She thought that being from home wouldn’t be a problem.

Cat has started to have second thoughts.

When Cat’s partner is in the office, working alone all day is hard. Sometimes I won’t see anyone all day. I pick up my phone instead of taking a break to chat. All of the extra screen time has had a negative impact on me.

Some of the problems of our fast-paced, pre-pandemic lifestyles can be solved with remote work. For many, it means the chance to spend more time with their children, or use time that they would have previously wasted pursuing more fulfilling hobbies. Although remote work can improve job satisfaction, it can also lead to employees feeling socially isolated, guilty and trying to overcompensate, according to new research by Microsoft.

The negative effects have come as a surprise for some employees, who are now feeling the crush, realizing remote work isn’t a panacea for wellbeing. Some employees are choosing to switch into roles with an in-office component, contrary to the popular narrative of a mass demand for remote work.

These drawbacks are well worth it for many people. The problems that working from home bring are a small price to pay for the demographic who struggled with an office-based working life before the pandemic.

A mental health crisis is growing.

Working from home used to be seen as a utopia of exercise on our breaks, making healthy homecooked lunches and easily being able to make the school run. The reality has looked very different for a lot of people.

Up to 80% of UK workers feel that working from home has negatively impacted their mental health, as well as research showing that remote workers are putting in longer hours at their desk, are just a few examples.

Many people can feel isolated during remote work, but child-free millennials are particularly likely to be affected (Credit:  Images)

Many people feel isolated at work, but child-free millennials are more likely to be affected.

Koa Health has a scientist named Nicola Hemmings who is a workplace scientist. She says the lack of human connection is a common complaint. She points out that even those who have fully embraced a move to remote work may not be spared from the mental health crisis caused by the Pandemic.

She says that when working remotely, we miss out on the social cues of a busy office such as catching up in the corridor, or making a drink in the kitchen. There are seemingly small moments that can have a big impact on our wellbeing.

Isolation isn’t the only problem. Cat says that dealing with a high volume of video calls has made her feel self-conscious, and that seeing her own face on a screen has left her wishing that she could return to in person meetings. She says she would prefer to have an office a few times a week.

Some workers are feeling more negative effects. Cat is a child-free generation that is likely to be affected by the struggles she describes.

A survey showed 81% of under 35s feared loneliness from long-term home working, and studies showed heightened levels of stress and anxiety among younger workers since the shift to remote work. Specific circumstances associated with younger workers, such as having recently entered the workforce or not having a quiet workspace, can have a significant impact on wellbeing.

A good trade-off.

Working remotely during the Pandemic has been enough of a positive change for some.

For workers with existing caring responsibilities or disabilities, who have experienced a positive change to their mental health, this is particularly true. Office-based work can be very detrimental to the wellbeing of these people, as they juggle long commute times with intense personal commitments, and dealing with the stress of getting to and from a workplace not suited to their needs.

Lauren says that working from home has improved her well-being. The mother-of-one from Pennsylvania says that although there are some drawbacks, such as never feeling truly offline, the positives outweigh the negatives. She points out that she can now work in the same room as her husband and daughter while they play together, or go to doctor’s appointments for herself or her child at a time that suits her.

Lauren, who works in technology, doesn’t have the Sunday scaries for the first time. It’s helpful to keep flexible hours when you have a child. Until my daughter goes to school, I want to work remotely.

Lauren likes the added convenience and increased time with her childDisadvantages of remote working are a fair trade-off for the added convenience and increased time with her child Kevin Rockman, a professor of management at George Mason University’s School of Business, says that although there are issues when it comes to wellbeing, the net benefits for people like Lauren have been vast.

He says that there is no doubt that wellbeing is improved by remote work. It is almost certain that trading commute time for personal health, family or recreation will bring positive benefits.

The balance can be found.

Many companies are grappling with the problem of how to design a model that works for everyone because the shift to remote work has been far from straightforward. People’s personal circumstances and preferences are a key factor in whether remote work brings them any benefits, and if so, whether the value of these benefits outweighs downsides like isolation and loneliness.

Rockman says that implementing remote work is about re-imagineing what it means for each and every person to be at work. Employers need to balance flexibility with giving people the tools they need to remain productive and the social needs of employees. The ideal balance will change from an organization to an organisation.

According to Rockman, different demographic will experience remote work in different ways. Young mothers are most likely to benefit from working from home, and a person who lives with their partner and has a social network in their local area will probably experience less negative impacts on their wellbeing than someone who lives alone and is a recent transplant to a city.

Despite the negatives, many workers report that the upsides of remote work, like flexibility to be with family, far outweigh drawbacks (Credit:  Images)

The upsides of remote work, like flexibility to be with family, far outweigh the negatives, according to many workers.

It is1-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-65561-6556 A Gen Zer in the early stages of their career might value the social contact of the office, and their needs might be very different from a working mother or person who cares for an elderly parent. Depending on the needs of individuals over time, what works best isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution, and will probably also be a moving target.

Cat isn’t currently looking for a new job, but she hopes to find a role that balances both in-person and remote work when she does Even though she has struggled with her wellbeing while working from home, she still wouldn’t want to go back to five days in the office a week.

Lauren sees herself moving into a hybrid job once her daughter starts school, but only if the role is flexible enough to allow her to leave at midday to see her daughter at a school event or an appointment. Otherwise, remote work doesn’t sound bad.