Before COVID-19, the idea of rolling out of bed, skipping the commute, and joining a virtual meeting in pajama bottoms was the ultimate dream for many employees.
But then the coronavirus shutdown the economy and forced a large portion of the American workforce to actually experience their “work from home” daydream… day after day after day.
As it turns out, many workers are ready to head back into the office ASAP.
What We Lose Through Zoom
There’s no doubt about it; video conferencing tools like Zoom have saved the day during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Teachers have been able to meet with their students, office teams have held constructive meetings, and companies have strived to hold employees accountable through check-ins.
But we lose a certain element of natural connection when forced to communicate strictly through video conferencing methods. As Stanford psychologist Jeremy Bailenson explains, “People have very dedicated personal norms about the proper space one should leave between themselves and others.” Video calls force participants to maintain up-close-and-personal views of their faces. “We rarely get that close to someone unless we’re in a fight or an intimate situation.”
To make matters worse, video chats make it much harder to enjoy the natural, spontaneous interactions between colleagues that boosts morale and keeps the work environment pleasant and productive. Often known as “the watercooler effect,” it simply doesn’t translate on structured Zoom and Slack calls. Instead, participants try not to awkwardly interrupt someone else, creating a sense of forced, lackluster conversation.
Of course, there’s also that loss of bonding that can’t quite be defined. As Greg Rosalsk of Planet Money explains, “The office is also a place for social bonding, mentorship and professional development. We’re social animals with a gazillion nonverbal microexpressions that we use to communicate, and these can be lost in two-dimensional digital mediums.”
The Plus Sides of Working from Home
According to a recent survey, many employees have discovered welcome perks of their mandated work from home situations. 65% feel their productivity has increased and 80% say they can better manage interruptions from coworkers when working outside of the office environment.
There’s also the fringe benefit of the gift of time. 80% of survey respondents enjoy being able to see their family during the day, and 77% said they’re finding new ways to be productive outside of the normal 9-5 hours. And almost everybody is happy to skip the traffic for a while.
But at the end of the day, 66% of workers still prefer working from work instead of working from home.