Monthly plan to access Budget

Journalism of Courage
Advertisement
Premium

Speaking For Myself: Working from home during the pandemic robbed me of connection and drive

Employees find meaning in the everyday, mundane experiences of waking up and getting ready for work, commuting, sharing the ups and downs of life over meals, and gossiping near the coffee machine

Presenteeism, what is Presenteeism, Presenteeism pitfalls, indianexpress.com, Presenteeism stress, job stress, workload stress, what is Presenteeism, Presenteeism concerns,Presenteeism is a much bigger concern in modern-day work environments. (Source: File Photo)

With many companies permanently shifting to — or planning to adapt to — the work-from-home (WFH) setting during the pandemic, for a beginner, aged 21, becoming an “office-goer” seemed to be a thing of the past. Fresh out of university in June 2022, I started working with a firm which had permanently shut its office space, with employees working from home. Those living in Delhi and the NCR would visit a rented co-working space in a corporate hub once a week.

During my sophomore and final years of college, I had followed the new norm created by the pandemic – attended lectures from home, spent hours in front of screens, and interacted with peers and friends online, with hopes of meeting them shrinking further every day. Everyone became habituated to spending more time with their families – for better or for worse.

My decision to join a firm that had started working from home permanently came out of sheer anxiety about my future in a struggling economy and the aspiration to “move on” from the university bubble. However, what I had thought would be a social space for me, with new colleagues and gossip, became isolating, and work slowly became a chore. A separate corner dedicated to work, reserved within the four walls of my house, blurred the boundaries between work and home, eventually increasing stress levels to the point of burnout.

Similar to my experience, a McKinsey report demonstrates that remote employees complained of feeling disconnected and exhausted and faced difficulties in maintaining work-life balance, while a Gallup report says that stress among workers around the globe rose to an all-time high during the pandemic, with 60 per cent feeling emotionally detached from their jobs in the past year.

Subscriber Only Stories

Ingrained in me was the idealised image of a workspace — both in terms of its structure and culture. Since my firm had employees working from outside India, we occasionally had the chance to interact with them through online sessions. However, those meetings remained confined to our professional identities. My colleagues interacted over WhatsApp, and through emails, but the social connection I had expected to establish was largely missing.

The office space serves an important social function. Strategy&, part of the PwC network, highlights that organisational culture is mainly defined by “the collective norms of behaviour exhibited by the individuals in an organisation”. Employees find meaning in the everyday, mundane experiences of waking up and getting ready for work, commuting, sharing the ups and downs of life over meals, and gossiping near the coffee machine. During the pandemic, although modern digital tools were accessible to most firms, building trust over screens and reading non-verbal cues became difficult, thus hampering the important social aspects of work.

The isolation and burnout that came with the online work environment greatly hampered my performance on the job. The disassociation I felt due to an absence of social and emotional connection had an impact on my mental health, to the extent that I was compelled to switch jobs within two months.

Advertisement

As more and more people return to the workplace, after a two-year pause, organisations must also consider what the post-pandemic work culture could look like. Could a better workplace be built to foster collaboration and a sense of democracy and freedom among employees? Automatic doors, spaced-out desks, and impersonal common areas could hinder communication. It is time one reimagines the physical space of the office in ways that align with the objectives of employees and enable productive social connections between them in an offline environment.

ariba.ie@indianexpress.com

First published on: 29-10-2022 at 19:14 IST
Next Story

Comedian Trevor Noah says he never said ‘entire UK is racist’ after Rishi Sunak row

Home
ePaper
Next Story
close
X