Article by Obelisk
Do you want to work from home or will you go to the office? On one hand you don’t feel like waiting in the traffic jam, but on the other hand some colleagues you haven’t seen in a long time are at the office today. You feel like you’ll be more productive at the office but you will have to leave earlier to get the kids from school or do some sports. A lot has been researched about productivity in the debate working from home versus going to the office. But what makes employees happy and satisfied regarding this matter?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, working from home has become a normality for a majority of the organisations. Now the pandemic is weakening in several countries around the world, people are going back to their workplaces. Before we start the daily routine of going to the office again every day, we should wonder what we have learned past months about working from home. How do we get the best of both worlds regarding happiness, wellbeing and satisfaction?
Let’s answer the question by taking a look at Seligman’s PERMA-model. This model, incorporated in the Happiness@work project, is known to increase satisfaction and happiness at work. Using positive psychology, the project’s methodology, this article reaches out five statements related to the five crucial ingredients of the PERMA-model.
Experiencing positive emotions is a cornerstone in wellbeing and happiness at work. How can these positive emotions be linked to the workplace if employees are not there? It is not only important to experience this emotions, but also to share them. Whether they are working from home or at the office, employees should be provided with time and tools to share their positive emotions with colleagues. Scheduling a weekly moment to share work and non-work experiences could be a way to connect positive emotions.
Research found that working from home can promote work engagement (Darouei & Pluut 2020). This means employees can feel more engaged to their work when working from home. To nuance this statement De Klerk et al. (2021) state that working from home for a long time without coming to the workplace can be very demotivating. This means that employees should at least be offered the chance to combine working from home and working at the office.
This might be the most important element in the discussion. People who work often or always at the office report to feel significantly more association and belongingness to other people in the organisation and to the organisation itself (Morganson et al. 2010). People who work from home may experience major communication barriers with their organisation due to the temporal and physical distance. This is associated with feelings of exclusion and missing out formal and informal opportunities. The feelings of exclusion lead in turn to higher turnover, reduced commitment, lower job satisfaction, burnout, disinterest in and rejection by co-workers (Morganson et. al 2010). In other words, bringing people together at the workplace is crucial for the relationships at work. A monthly at-office-day where people can stay longer after work to connect with each other is a way to strengthen the feelings of inclusion.
The meaning of work doesn’t seem to depend on the place of work if there is some flexibility. As long as you go to the office or work from home from time to time, you will have the possibility to experience meaning in doing your job (De Menezes & Kelliher, 2011).
People tend to be more productive when working at home compared to working at the office (De Klerk et al. 2021). Thereby they accomplish more when working from home. However, accomplishing something doesn’t necessarily mean that people feel accomplishment. What might help in feeling accomplishments is celebrating them. Milestones as well as small steps in a project might feel more as real accomplishments when shared and celebrated with colleagues by seeing each other in real life.
The main message is that both working from home as at the office have major advantages for the employees wellbeing. Every individual has to find their own balance regarding this matter. Some thrive better at home and some better at the office. A first step in finding a balance is to be conscious about the pitfalls of both extremes and about the advantages of the combination of working from home and working at the office.
Darouei, M. and Pluut H. (2021) Work from Home Today for a Better Tomorrow! How Working from Home Influences Work-Family Conflict and Employees’ Start of the next Workday. Stress and Health 2021, 1–14. doi:10.1002/smi.3053
De Klerk, J.J., Joubert, M., & Mosca, H.F. (2021). Is working from home the new workplace panacea? Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for the future world of work. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 47, 1-14. doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v47i0.1883
De Menezes, L. M., and Kelliher, C. (2011) “Flexible Working and Performance: A Systematic Review of the Evidence for a Business Case.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 13, (4), 452–474.
Morganson, V. J., et al. (2010) Comparing Telework Locations and Traditional Work Arrangements: Differences in Work-Life Balance Support, Job Satisfaction, and Inclusion. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25, 578–595. doi10.1108/02683941011056941