Microsoft recently completed some internal research on the emotional wellness and mental state of their employees as we continue to navigate the effects of COVID-19 with work-from-home lockdowns, the future of workspace, and employee flexibility. What they found was staggering.
It seems that employees working from home on a daily basis (and bear in mind these are all employees that are used to working at a desk and screen type setup anyway, given they’re all tech related roles) aren’t handling it very well. There’s 3 main findings that we need to consider:
Even for folks that normally work at a screen in the office, the ability to get up, walk around and interact with others, be it casually in passing or intentionally through meetings, is something that’s been grossly underestimated in value. People need to see other people. We’re wired for 3 dimensional interaction, not 2 dimensional screen staring. Working from home in isolation means everything you do to interact with your work and colleagues happens through a flat, LED type screen approx 2-3 feet away from your face. It’s not the same and it’s not working because our brains aren’t wired to work that way!
This was a surprising one. With all the arguments around zero commute times, the comforts of working in your own environment styled and designed to your specific taste, etc… it’s puzzling that folks would feel exhausted. But they do. The news has been evangelizing work-from-home as some kind of savior for stressed out commuters, when in fact it’s just created a different problem- the inability to separate work life from home life. At a subconscious level the mind can’t separate and stays turned “on” all the time. With work bleeding over into personal time and as a result, our bodies are actually feeling more worked than ever before. But this is nothing compared to the last point.
Yes, you read the right. Crying. Working from home is literally causing highly educated, professional level employees to physically break down and cry. Regularly, consistently and indiscriminately. Seriously. What is happening when working for a living is creating so much mental and emotional distress, that people are feeling the need to cry, in their homes, the place that’s supposed to be their safe space? Remember, these were employees that had already been doing the work they were doing, so this isn’t a work product issue or a difficulty related symptom.
If you employ people and were thinking keeping them home was going to be a great idea then maybe it’s time to revisit that thought. Am I biased? Maybe a little, given we’re in the workspace business. But another way to look at it is that we’re in the workspace business because we’ve known all along that going out to a different place of work is essential to our mental wellness, while also creating safe places away from the office for other parts of our lives. We’ve sung this song for years, and we’re just getting started.