The Hidden Consequences of Work From Home

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The Hidden Consequences of Work From Home
The Hidden Consequences of Work From Home

Talk to people seeking new jobs, and invariably, they will say their ideal is working from home. It is not a new idea. For example, remote field personnel working in sales or service positions with a ‘home office’ have worked from home for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns accelerated the work-from-home movement (WFH) as a means of protecting public safety and the earning potential of Americans.

Now, two full years after the COVID lockdowns, millions of Americans still work from home. Some ugly consequences are beginning to surface. After working from home for so long due to pandemic mandates, some employees see it as an employment benefit on par with a paid vacation, retirement plans and health insurance. In short, working from home has become an entitlement.

In a recent article, Forbes Advisor reported that 65% of white-collar workers list working from home as the most important thing they seek when searching for a job. It ranks higher than salary, a flexible schedule, work-life balance and even a potential supervisor.

As of August 2023, 12.7 percent of workers work from home full-time, while 28.2 percent work from home at least half the week. Experts say that by 2025, over 30 million Americans will be working from home.

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Most employees cite two major benefits. The first is convenience since it eliminates travel time to and from work. The second is comfort, which allows professionals to work in a familiar environment with personalized features like a favorite chair or a fully stocked kitchen. In many cases, these benefits help both employer and employee. However, there are many downsides that are overlooked for the sake of convenience and comfort.

One major disadvantage of working from home is the inability to receive one-on-one coaching when working side by side with senior peers and managers. The age range with the most work-from-home employees is 24 to 35, a time when they are in most need of expertise and training for advancement and development.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to ‘read the room’ and body language of meeting participants in a virtual workplace. So much more can be learned when individuals share a space and interact. Personal contact provides opportunities to ask follow-up questions and advice that might not occur when a person ‘clicks out’ of a video meeting.

“Touch matters for many reasons,” says Arthur Markman, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin. He adds, “People make rapid judgments about other people based on just a snippet of interaction with them. That can include a handshake, but also facial expression, a smile and the way people are dressed.”

Working from home can have an economic impact on communities. Commercial real estate, for example, has taken a huge hit in major cities as office buildings stand nearly vacant. This affects the local economy, such as restaurants and retailers that once benefitted from the office building lunch crowd.

Clothing companies specializing in business attire are also affected. For example, brick-and-mortar shoe stores are reducing their inventories of traditional leather work shoes in favor of sneakers and other casual footwear to meet the demand, driven in part by the WFH movement.

However, the most important disadvantage of working from home is that it limits the connection with others, which is so necessary in a Christian society. People need direct connections with other people to live together in community and virtue. The spiritual dimension of this contact allows societies to form and aids in the sanctification of oneself and others.

Such personal contacts cannot be replaced by cell phone technology, the Internet or artificial intelligence. Working from home as an entitlement rather than a true necessity can put spiritual well-being at risk by disconnecting people from occasions of grace and charity that come through contact with one’s neighbor.

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Indeed, such contacts are a path to the Creator, for as Saint John writes, “He that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not” (1 John 4:20).

It seems ironic that discussing disconnection through technology is on par with discussing the weather. In this time of loneliness and anxiety, human interaction should be promoted instead of being rejected by those who demand that these links be severed.

Thus, the entitlement mentality of work-from-home can have consequences that affect personal development, knowledge and expertise. It can hurt the community by impacting real estate, retail and other businesses. However, its greatest danger is the loss of those essential spiritual interactions with others that allow Christians to see Christ in everyone and advance His Kingdom.

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