There is no denying that the pandemic has created a paradigm shift in how we think about working from home. Now American employees have gotten a taste of this workstyle, more than 40 percent say they want to continue working from home full time, with another 35 percent preferring a hybrid model where they work from home some of the time. Only 25 percent of Americans want to return to the office full time.
There is no denying there are benefits to working from home, including a reduced commute time and more flexibility.
But of course, there are downsides to working from home, as well, and many of them may limit your upward professional trajectory. Here, we’ll talk about why working from home could hold you back in your career.
Working from home doesn’t actually increase productivity.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we were excited because we thought our productivity had increased working from home. Unfortunately, this idea of productivity was inflated by what’s called “panic productivity.” The requirement to pivot to our sometimes-makeshift home offices was exciting and different, but those changes were not sustainable, for reasons we’ll discuss later.
“…we’re hearing a lot of people are now hitting a wall. They are tired, fed up and burned out. If their productivity was high at first, it has declined as the pandemic has worn on and as the stressors around them have mounted,” writes Forbes’ Tracy Brower.
Your relationship to your company could be degraded – and so could your enthusiasm.
A factor that contributes to WFH employee burnout is a disconnect from their companies. Companies have to work extremely hard to build a connection and community with workers at home, and if those efforts are not in place, workers may feel like their contributions to their workplaces are transactional, rather than meaningful.
If an ambitious worker feels uncommitted to her workplace, then both her motivation and her performance will inevitably suffer.
“Water-cooler” information sharing is valuable.
After more than a year of working at home, you may miss your colleagues. But this isolation matters in more ways than just socially. Colleagues often share important information, ask questions, or seek advice in those informal moments that are impossible to replicate in the virtual environment.
“Water-cooler” moments – getting into the elevator with a colleague, sharing a snack with a co-worker in the breakroom, running into a colleague as you’re leaving the office – can spark a-ha moments.
“A quick coffee run, a meeting over lunch, a chat in the elevator: all of these moments can reveal new information about an employee or a manager that can improve their day-to-day comfort in working with each other,” writes Ivy Exec’s R. Kress.
This isn’t just true for colleagues either. You can build better rapport with your superiors, as well, and you’ll need them both for in-house promotions and as references.
Remote work hurts social and professional community building.
One of the motivating factors in any job is purpose. This purpose isn’t as easy to feel in the remote workplace.
“It’s easier to see how our efforts contribute to others’ work and ultimately to the experience of our customers. Picking up on the buzz and energy that unite us is valuable. And feeling like we matter in the big scheme of things can help us get motivated every morning,” Brower said.
Ambitious employees may ignore boundaries.
If you’re an ambitious person, it may be even more difficult for you to log off for the day when you’re working from home. Having a physical space for work – the office – and a physical space for play and relaxing – your home – helps us create mental boundaries, as well.
While it is possible to disentangle these two states of mind when working from home, this intentional disconnection perhaps requires more effort. If you’re working nights and weekends, and answering every email as soon as it arrives, then you may start seeing symptoms of burnout that can hurt your career.
Out of sight can mean out of mind.
When an opportunity arises, your colleagues and supervisors will be that much more likely to think to offer it to you if you’re fresh in their minds. It’s human nature. If one of your colleagues goes into the office regularly and you don’t, they’re that much more likely to be considered for a special project or promotion than you are. To stay visible, you may have to work much harder to build connections from your remote office than you would in the physical one.
Limit Your Days Working from Home
The question remains: should you work from home if you can?
Most of these concerns relate most to ambitious employees considering working from home all the time. If you never show your face in the office, you may risk alienating yourself from your company culture, colleagues, and superiors. At the same time, you may find yourself blurring the lines between your time on and time off in your professional life, which could cause burnout. Still, you don’t have to rule out working from home a few days a week. Clocking in from your home office one to three times a week could benefit your mental health, as well as your efficiency.