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The Psychology of Remote Work (Good, Bad, and Ugly)

Travelers Today       By    David Thompson

Updated: Apr 05, 2022 01:09 PM EDT

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The Psychology of Remote Work (Good, Bad, and Ugly)

(Photo: Sigmund via Unsplash)

Remote work has been around for decades, but it finally rose to prominence during the height of the pandemic. Even today, as almost every city has opened back up to normal capacity, remote work continues to be the new reality for millions of workers. 

But is that a positive or negative? Well, it depends on who you ask.

The Psychological Benefits of Remote Work

Remote working is attractive for a number of reasons. There are obviously the financial benefits of not having to drive into an office and getting to make your meals at home. But ultimately, it's the psychological benefits that keep people hooked on working from home. 

Here are three of the most tangible psychological benefits of remote work:

  • Flexibility. When you work from home, you have the flexibility to work how you please. Whether that's listening to music, working in your pajamas, or taking a midday break for a home-cooked lunch with your spouse, there's a lot more flexibility in working remotely. This typically leads to greater job satisfaction.

  • Freedom. Depending on the employer, you generally have some freedom when it comes to the hours you work. This concept, which is known as flex-scheduling, makes it possible to start earlier and finish earlier (or start later and finish later). This control over your schedule gives you the ability to fit your work schedule around your personal schedule. 

  • Efficiency. In a physical office, simple processes can get overcomplicated. With remote work, everything has to be transitioned to software and automation. This leads to greater efficiency (which subsequently leads to greater worker satisfaction). Take approval processes, for example. Electronic signatures make it possible to quickly sign documents without having to fax, scan, or email copies back and forth. 

The Darker Side of Remote Work

While benefits like increased flexibility, freedom, and efficiency are highly attractive, we'd be doing you a disservice not to mention the less savory side of remote work. As anyone who has transitioned into a work-from-home setup knows, you'll also have to deal with:

  • Isolation. There's a very real sense of being alone when you work from home. You're obviously physically alone - but there's also an element of being alone in your work. Clearly, this isn't true. However, when you don't have the ability to pop into someone's office or rub shoulders with people in the break room, it's easy to feel like you lack support. 

  • Communication issues. It's a lot more difficult to communicate effectively in a remote environment. While there are plenty of tools available to make it easier, it's hard to replace the nuances of inflection, tone, and banter with virtual tools like email, chat, or SMS. In industries where quick, accurate communication is a must, this can have a decidedly negative impact on results. 

  • Burnout. Most people see remote work as a solution to burnout, but this isn't always the case. In some cases, working from home full-time can actually accelerate burnout. It becomes difficult to separate your personal life from your work life and, as a result, every aspect of your world sort of blurs together. This can make you feel stuck. Some even describe it as a form of "psychological claustrophobia." Typically, it's extroverted people who are most prone to suffering burnout when working from home. This ties back in with the problem of isolation. If not dealt with in a proactive manner, this can negatively impact a person's job performance and career. 

Making the Most Out of Remote Work

Remote work is clearly here to stay. The pandemic has pushed the modern workplace to a point of no return. As companies discover the cost-effectiveness of employing virtual teams, we'll never see a return to pre-pandemic levels of in-office employment. So it's no longer a debate of whether remote work is good or bad - it's a question of how we can maximize the benefits and neutralize the negatives. 

From a management perspective, this requires implementing more strategic initiatives and better training. You can't just assign employees remote positions and let them figure it out. There have to be helpful resources and support along the way.

From an individual employee perspective, structure and discipline are critically important to success and productivity. You have to create a structured schedule, and very specific rules regarding when you work, where you work, and how you work. 

Make sure there's separation by drawing clear lines between your personal and professional lives.

See Now: The U.S. had the highest number of Most Wanted properties, dominating the Hotels.com Loved By Guests Awards 2018

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