BC Work from home
Balancing work with homeschooling Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Working from home has become the new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. While remote working has been a frequent facility for professionals in some sectors such as tech, working from home (WFH), before the COVID-19 pandemic, was still a novel concept. The concept has been viewed with some reluctance on the side of business owners on account of misplaced fears about productivity.

Precautionary measures have forced employees worldwide to work from home, regardless of industry or sector.

According to a 2019 study, remote working employees "worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year" than people who worked in an office. The same study shows that the difference in ease of focusing on work at home vs office is negligible. While 8 per cent of respondents in WFH category said it was hard to focus, 6 per cent of employees working from offices said the same thing.

Another survey claimed that employees who work from home at least once a month are 24 per cent more likely to feel happy at work.

The new normal

BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said the work-from-home revolution will have lasting effects, including pushing down demand for commercial real estate.

Fink said that after businesses were forced to run from mostly remote setups during the coronavirus crisis, many companies will choose not to bring all their workers back to the office even when it is safe to do so.

"I don't think any company's going to go back to 100% of the workforce in the office," Fink said Thursday at a virtual event from Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative Institute. "That means less congestion in cities. It means, more importantly, less need for commercial real estate. So to me that's one of the great outcomes of this."

No work-life balance

However, many UAE residents said that maintaning a work-life balance is harder when working remotely.

An executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co. gets unapologetic messages from colleagues on nights and weekends, including a notably demanding one on Easter Sunday. A web designer whose bedroom doubles as an office has to set an alarm to remind himself to eat during his non-stop workday. At Intel Corp., a vice president with four kids logs 13-hour days while attempting to juggle her parenting duties and her job.

Six weeks into a global work-from-home experiment with no end in sight, whatever boundaries remained between work and life have almost entirely disappeared.

The 9-to-5 workday, or any semblance of it, seems like a relic of a bygone era. Long gone are the regretful formalities for calling or emailing at inappropriate times. Burnt-out employees feel like they have even less free time than when they wasted hours commuting.

Parents with kids at home are stretched particularly thin, Bloomberg reported, as they squeeze work in between child-care duties, which now include virtual learning sessions. In two-thirds of married couples with children in the US, both parents work, leaving nobody available to watch the kids while the other partner is on the job.