Despite reports to the contrary, there’s little to fear – and much to gain – from the new way of working known as “Work from Anywhere.”
The headlines were worrying:
“Beware of the Dark Side” to working from anywhere!
Many employees wondered if they had been crazy to trade in a cubicle for the freedom to do their jobs from anywhere, anytime. Fear gripped the halls of Jabra, where we’ve passionately advocated this new way of working, in which organizations give their employees wide latitude to do their jobs from anywhere they’d like. We’d even blogged about the topic several times (here and here) recently.
Then I read the articles and discovered… that the dark side isn’t very dark at all.
The angst-inducing articles were based on a 73-page report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). Mensfitness.com, Fox News and other publications quickly and breathlessly described parts of the report.
And to their credit, the articles cite many employee benefits to the Work from Anywhere phenomenon, including increased autonomy, greater productivity, more flexibility and reduced commute times.
But their main focus – probably because that’s where the clicks are – was on what’s wrong with Work from Anywhere, specifically that it intrudes into our personal lives, makes us work longer hours and increases our stress levels.
Out of the Dark and Into the Light
The biggest downside to Work from Anywhere, according to the stories, is the blending of work and personal life. One article proclaimed “the way that the work day can spill over into your personal time can be a big negative.”
Sure, Work from Anywhere means work activities can seep into our personal lives. Yet the articles fail to realize that the walls between work and personal time have been crumbling for years, as technology and culture have nudged us away from work/life balance and toward work/life integration instead (which we discussed not long ago).
Workers who embrace the new paradigm of work/life integration understand that the trade-off for, say, reviewing reports after dinner and responding to the occasional email after the kids go to bed is the ability to run errands, take personal calls and even browse Facebook during what was once considered work time.
The articles similarly take aim at a finding that Work from Anywhere workers tend to work longer hours than their office-dwelling brethren. While that may be true occasionally, the tradeoff, again, is flexibility and choice.
If the reward for working another hour a day from Monday through Thursday is a Friday afternoon spent fishing with my son, it’s a bargain I’ll take any day. Plus the cultural shift to Work from Anywhere and the technology that enables it don’t by themselves force us to work longer hours. It’s up to us as workers to set reasonable boundaries for when we work and when we don’t. If anything, that’s liberating, not constraining.
De-Stressing Work from Anywhere
Perhaps most headline-grabbing are reports that remote workers experience higher stress levels than their office-based counterparts. But a close reading of the Eurofound report shows that the news articles have things mixed up. They don’t draw a critical distinction between remote employees who work from home and ones who are highly mobile, such as executives and sales managers.
In fact, the study finds that home-based workers in most countries actually report lower stress levels than other workers – even pointing out that in Belgium, among other places, “Teleworkers and non-teleworkers both stated that working at a distance from the (main) office reduces stress, increases the quality of one’s life, makes it easier to manage domestic chores and, last but not least, improves work-life balance.” The Eurofound report did find that highly mobile workers report elevated stress levels, but that’s to be expected because their jobs are inherently stressful.
So fear not, remote workers everywhere: the “dark side” to working from anywhere isn’t dark at all! Keep on working from your kitchen tables, coffee shops, park benches – and other places that make you most productive, comfortable and fulfilled.