Is There a Dark Side to Working From Home?

4 months ago by Sophie Stones

Is There a Dark Side to Working From Home?


In 2013, newly hired Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer banned employees from working from home. Going against the grain with a trend that has become all the rage this century, Mayer’s claims that ‘collaboration comes from working side by side’, were met with controversy.

Whilst Mayer’s newly implemented rules weren’t popular with all, her statements did ring true with some, with the University of Arizona recently finding that over 40% of employees working from home feel disconnected from their company’s strategic direction.

Worrying that it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ the 40% felt they weren’t receiving the opportunities their in-office co-workers were seeing regularly and felt it was more possible they were being passed over for promotions.

These concerns should be worrying for all of us, considering 2014 statistics found 13.9% of us were working from home regularly.

In support of home-working, National Geographic fellow, Dan Buettner, compared cutting out the average commute to a raise in happiness levels equivalent to a $40,000 raise, however for a lot of us the opposite could actually be achieved.

Potentially fostering a ‘grazing’ attitude to work, working from home could mean that employees don’t actually shut off from work until late, keeping dangerous stress levels at a constant high. Something they’ve been researching for a while, Kenneth Matos, senior director of Research at the Families and Work institute, says of this, “working from home removes certain time pressures but creates ambiguity around start and stop time”. So whilst we may think we’re saving time travelling, we could potentially be spending more time glued to our computer screens.

One way to avoid these pitfalls when implementing work-from-home schemes could be to ensure our employees are well prepared for the realities of being away from the office. However Esther Canonico recently found that the at-home workers, in her research for the London school of economics, didn’t receive any training or guidance on how to implement the schemes properly, leaving them out at sea on their own.

The thought of our employees feeling alone is probably the most discussed negative of remote-working, but it’s by-far not the only one. With distractions from family quoted as the main reason employees abandon their home for the office, it can often be impossible to separate our familial obligations from our career. Something Professor Robert Kelly found out, when his two children interrupted an important live interview, making him the subject of news posts all over the world and two years on he’s still a well-loved meme.

When it comes to working from home, even Mayer agrees it should be decided on a case by case basis, stating “we weren’t trying to make a broader commentary on working styles of working from home. We were just saying ‘look it was the right thing for us in that moment’”.