For remote work to work, keep the cameras on

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that working from home (WFH) is the future of work. He expects about half of Facebook employees to be fully remote within the next decade. But, on the other hand, companies such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are returning to the tried-and-true desktop work environment. Goldman chief David Solomon called working from home “an aberration that we are going to fix as soon as possible”. And JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon had this to say about working exclusively remotely: “It doesn’t work for those who want to It doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for [corporate] Culture.”

It is also relevant to examine employees’ views on teleworking. A study by Jose Maria Barrero of the Autonomous Institute of Technology of Mexico, Bloom and Steven J. Davis of Chicago Booth found that nearly six in 10 workers said they were more productive working from home, compared to just 14% who said they do less. The researchers say the work-from-home trend is here to stay and they calculate that these arrangements will increase overall worker productivity in the United States by 5% compared to the pre-pandemic economy.

But another study, “Impacts of Working From Home during COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical and Mental Well-Being of Office Workstation Users,” by Yijing Xiao and others published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine took a very different view. the effectiveness of the WFH. The study found that when working from home, individuals found themselves surrounded by other people (such as partners, children, and parents) performing different activities in the same home at the same time. With reduced communication with co-workers, other distractions while working, and adjusted work hours, this has had a noticeable impact on the physical and mental health of remote workers. Another study by the American Psychiatric Association had similar findings. This study found that the majority of employees working from home, more so female workers, say they experienced negative mental health effects, including isolation, loneliness and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the week. daytime.

What is the main cause of this mental distress? We all have multiple identities. Each of our identities emerges depending on the context in which we find ourselves. Before the pandemic, people were used to living at home (normally reserved for privacy) and going to workplaces to work. Except in exceptional cases, these places were kept away from each other. One of the main stressors of working from home is that one is forced to don two separate identities, family identity and professional identity, both in the same place, which causes many traumatic conflicts between these identities.

Individuals have traditionally had physical and mental rituals when leaving home to go to work. These rituals facilitated a smooth transition from one identity to another. So a practical suggestion is to create a healthy form of distancing from the home environment while continuing to work from home. The WFH employee’s home must become “less of a home” and “more of an office” to re-establish healthy psychosocial physical and mental boundaries between work and home. At the same time, telecommuting cannot be a cut-and-paste of a 9-to-5 work schedule in a home environment. Companies should clearly define the time of day when an employee is expected to adopt a professional identity and interact with co-workers and when that individual is free to return to their original identity.

Clothing has always played an important role in defining its identity, both for the wearer and for the person who interacts with it. Under normal circumstances, what one wears at home does not complement one’s professional identity. It used to be that putting on a work outfit and going to the office were daily rituals that helped a person transition effectively from their personal identity to their professional identity. Today, teleworkers should not ignore the importance of these rituals that accompany the transition from one identity to another.

When one is dressed for work, it also offers another advantage. One of the often-cited reasons for not turning on your camera in online meetings is that employees aren’t comfortable showing their personal territory to co-workers. Online applications have solved this problem by introducing artificial backgrounds that could cover the real space of the house. But still, many employees are reluctant to turn on their cameras as many are in their home ID attire. However, once employees adopt professional attire, this reluctance to turn on the cameras should decrease.

For millions of years humans have worked best with visual input. Thus, more than 90% of the processing capacity of the brain is reserved for the processing of visual stimuli. It is therefore not surprising that eye contact is a primary signal of human connectivity. Behind the cameras off, this ability to build relationships of trust with others is handicapped by the FMH. This is a major obstacle to the effectiveness of work meetings. So if WFH is going to be an efficient way to do business, cameras can’t be left off during online meetings.

In a 2021 survey, 75% of U.S. employees said a personal preference for working from home at least one day a week, and 40% said they would quit a job that required full-time in-person work. Yet, for those intentions to materialize, those considering working from home would need to make crucial behavioral changes.

Biju Dominic is Chief Evangelist, Fractal Analytics, and President, FinalMile Consulting.

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Maria D. Ervin