4 Unspoken Consequences of Working Remote When Your Office Reopens — Fair or Not Fair

The 4 Unspoken Damaging Effects of Working Remote When Your Office Reopens

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ILHAM ALAM347
Career Advisor. Published Author in Canada
May 29, 2024 at 12:51AM UTC

One of the unintended positives of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rise of flexible work options. As we move toward reopening and a return to the way things were, some employees are choosing to leave their current job if their employers won’t offer them flexible working options.

There is a lot to love about working remotely. There is the comfort of working from home; saving money on gas or transit passes; not getting embroiled in office politics; getting more time back with family; being location independent; upgrading to bigger properties in small towns, suburbs and rural areas to be closer to nature; more time for health and wellness; and energy to pursue new hobbies. All of these benefits have provided workers the opportunity for a much-desired work-life balance—which can have a beneficial impact on their mental health.

But for many people, working remotely has had many damaging effects, ones that will linger when they return to the office—or if they never return. Here are some unspoken damaging effects of working remotely when the office reopens.

1. Working remotely can be socially isolating.

Social isolation has well-documented damaging effects on mental health. Many prefer to work in an office because of the numerous opportunities for social interaction and collaboration with colleagues. Working with a team in person feeds our very basic human need for connection. So, as other workers return to the office, remote employees may feel that they will need to put in extra effort to reconnect with their colleagues.

2. The lines between work and home are blurred. 

I know I have made dinner and cleaned during the daytime and made up for that by working well into the night to finish projects on time and prove my productive value to my team. As offices reopen, there may be an expectation from employers that remote employees will return calls and attend virtual meetings outside of their scheduled work hours, all in the name of increased productivity. Remote employees can also have difficulty switching off when their office is in their living room instead of another part of town.

3. Remote workers may not take time off.

Employees may not be using their accrued vacation days or sick days—because why take time off when you can be flexible working remotely? Due to these blurred lines between work and home, employers are not paying overtime or providing lieu days as compensation for working during off-hours. Even when workers return to the office, managers may expect employees to always be available, since the precedent has been set. 

4. Remote workers may get passed up for opportunities.

When working from home, remote employees may find their career progression in jeopardy. There may be more visibility for those who do decide to return to the office, while those working from home will need to (virtually) speak up to be heard and noticed. Women, who already get paid less than their male counterparts for the same job, may feel a further need to remain connected at all times of the day to avoid getting passed up for raises and promotions. 

To mitigate these negative impacts of working remotely, the Canadian government is considering a "right to disconnect” legislation, so that remote workers don’t feel compelled to be on-call—especially at the expense of their mental and physical health, which can lead to extreme stress and burnout. Through such legislation, remote workers can expect to have defined working periods and rest periods. They cannot be penalized if they choose not to respond to work emails during non-working hours. France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia, Spain and the Philippines also have some form of a “right-to-disconnect” law. 

Other jurisdictions are considering such a law and this will only continue as we become a more hyper-connected digital world with hybrid working options. This legislation would go a long way towards preventing burnout from working longer hours when working remotely, preventing the development of long-term physical health issues. The “right to disconnect” could also relieve remote employees of the fear that they’ll be penalized for remote work—or overlooked for salary increases and advancement opportunities. 

Would you welcome a “right-to-disconnect” law in your own country? Why or why not? What do you think are some other damaging effects of working remotely when others return to the office? 

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This article was written by an FGB Contributor.

Ilham is a Post-Secondary Educator by day and a writer by...day, as well. She has a decade of work experience advising post-secondary students. Ilham’s debut children’s picture book, Wonder Walk, came out in 2019, published by Iguana Books. Currently, she is furiously at work completing a novel-length manuscript for an OwnVoices women fiction and query literary agents by this year. Ilham lives with her young family in Toronto, Canada. You can connect with Ilham through her blog here.

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