A little over a month ago, many of us were sent home to work from our sofas, kitchen tables, or, if we’re lucky, our home offices. We were thrust into a new reality that often includes a spouse also working from home and helping children manage distance learning.
Awkward Zoom calls, Wi-Fi woes, the pull of social media, interruptions from kids, and general feelings of uncertainty can cause us to feel like we can’t get anything done. But it’s not all bad news. For women especially, working from home has an upside.
And even as some people are returning to work, the future likely includes a lot more WFH moments as we continue to navigate these uncommon times.
There are benefits of working from home …
Aside from the fact that working from home right now means that you’re still employed, there are a number of reasons remote work can be better for women. A recent survey revealed that 62 percent of women would prefer to work from home, versus 53 percent of men. The women surveyed said they also feel more productive working remotely. Half of women, versus 37 percent of men, said they get more done without office distractions.
The flexibility that working from home offers is a huge reason so many women prefer it. In normal times, when children are going to school and not also struggling to keep up remotely, working mothers in particular find that life is easier. Working from home means they can walk their children to the bus stop, pick them up from school, be with them when they’re sick, or breastfeed.
Working from home also levels the playing field in meetings, where too often the loudest people with the largest presence — often men — control the conversation. In remote meetings, everyone is a face on a screen or voice on a call. For those who have a hard time having their voices heard in real-life meetings, remote meetings can be a game changer.
And since commuting can be stressful and stress is damaging to our health, working from home can improve your overall well-being. You can get a bit more sleep — a huge plus for women, who on average have more difficulty getting shut-eye than men, and may find it a little easier to squeeze in a 30-minute workout and eat healthier meals.
… but there are plenty of challenges, too
Everyone is different, and each of these aspects of a work-from-home life also has a flipside. For instance, moms with school-age children have found themselves playing the role of teacher as they attempt to manage schoolwork on top of their own jobs. For many, this is a massive day-to-day struggle that brings productivity to a standstill.
Another challenge? Loneliness, particularly among older adults who are more likely to live alone. Working remotely, without the option of being able to see friends for lunch, go to the gym, camp out at a coffee shop, or drop in on a family member, can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. It, too, is a major productivity killer, and companies are scrambling to figure out how to best support their employees during these uncertain times.
Remote work life could exacerbate existing work-related issues, leading to more stress. Women are still vastly underrepresented in senior management roles, so it’s understandable that many women are frustrated with their jobs. Working at home robs women of what can be valuable facetime, leading to feelings of disengagement and resentment.
It could also exacerbate relationship issues. As The New York Times reported in the early days of stay-at-home orders, more time in close quarters brought a spike in domestic abuse calls around the world. The number of calls dropped, however, after a few weeks, and domestic violence police reports in major cities fell right along with reports of other crimes. The exact reason for that is still unknown.
Tips for staying productive
It is possible to be productive while working remotely. Here are some pointers:
- Stick to a routine. Keep regular work hours and shut your laptop at the end of the day.
- Create a dedicated workspace. Not everyone has the space for a home office, but you can set aside a corner of your home that is just for work tasks.
- Overcommunicate. When it comes to interacting with co-workers remotely, communicate well and often.
- Stay social. Check in on the personal well-being of your officemates and make a point to make each other laugh. Implement a biweekly video happy hour or start a Slack channel exclusively for funny COVID-related memes.
You can’t work all the time. Here are a few ways to have fun while sheltering in place.