Saturday, March 25

The paradox of teleworking: six hours less of commuting in exchange for three more hours of working hours

Advocates of teleworking have long argued that, among other benefits, saves workers and companies time and money. An affirmation that seems true according to the data from different studies, such as the last one published by the group of research WFH Research, which states that people who work remotely save up to six hours a week on commuting and grooming (shaving, makeup, shower).

A benefit for these employees that, however, is curtailed by the Disconnect difficulties experienced by many remote workers, according to data from the same study. A problem that makes teleworkers increase their workweek by about three hours, on average, compared to when they went to the office.

Research indicates that teleworkers save approximately 60 minutes a day on commuting and around 10 minutes a day by spending less time grooming. Thus, on average, the respondents took half an hour to shower, dress, shave or put on makeup to go to the office, while working from home took less than 20 minutes.

However, having the computer in the next room or, in the worst case, in the same room where you eat, watch television or sleep, causes teleworkers to take longer to disconnect, or to do something punctual task outside working hours that someone has asked them for a mobile device.

The study that concerns us was carried out in the United States through 4,000 surveys of as many teleworkers between the ages of 20 and 64 who earned $20,000 or more, but it can be perfectly applied to our country. There are many voices who have argued that, effectively, remote work saves time and money for the employee. In a in similar research carried out in 2020, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce pointed out that teleworking could mean for the employee a saving of between 264 and 660 euros in transport and up to 616 euros in food.

However, that same study by the Chamber of Commerce also underlined that working from home could cause confusion between working hours and personal life, which would entail an overload of work.

How much time do you spend cleaning up and getting ready for work when: you go to work vs. you work from home Source: WFH Research.

we do not disconnect

Another study of the Spanish labor market, in this case by Infojobs, also points out that telecommuting has worsened our ability to disconnect from our employment since the pandemic began. Thus, 82% of those surveyed by the employment portal recognized that answered calls or emails outside of business hours, for the 63% who said the same thing before the arrival of Covid.

And of all those employees who answer calls and emails outside of their working hours, nearly 60% said that working from home had contributed to their having a harder time unplugging.

Several studies underline that this happens because we have the psychological need to separate the spaces in which we carry out different activities, in this case our work of our personal life.

In this sense, research published in 2001 He pointed out that commuting to work is a kind of ritual that helps to psychologically separate domestic life from work life, disconnecting the person from personal concerns in the morning and work concerns in the afternoon. A large number of studies conducted over the last four decades show that this “psychological detachment” it is crucial for well-being.

We telecommute better and better: remote productivity has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic

The different investigations also point out that changing the identity from home to work entails a cognitive effort that a neutral transition zone, such as public transport or simply the street, can facilitate.

However, the 2001 study also specified that the psychological benefits of commuting to a workplace occurred only when the office was no more than 30 minutes from home, and reached its full potential if the distance was around 16 minutes. In transfers of more than 35 minutes, it had negative psychological effects such as greater stress or irritability.

Whether we are more or less in agreement that commuting helps our minds to differentiate between the work space and the home space, what seems clear is that it is beneficial for our mental well-being separate in some way the place where we carry out our work from that of our daily life, either by going to the office, to a coworking space or creating an office at home in a room separate from the rest of the rooms. Although the latter is not always possible.