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The hidden cost of remote working

For many years now, experts have predicted that the office environment will become extinct and that employees will work from home instead. Nothing of any great significance really happened on that front until Covid hit. Then suddenly, it was ‘all systems go!’

I have worked from my home office for several years so I’ve had the advantage of adapting to it by degrees, carving out a customised space for myself and gradually improving my set-up. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to really think about the impact of working from home – you are just getting on with it as best you can.

New Research

The new research on remote working is very interesting. Up until now it was presented as the cure-all to working in the office and a way to boost productivity. However in a survey that tracked employees’ computer activity, it transpired that greater hours were worked than pre-remote working, but there wasn’t a correlating rise in productivity (as in output per hour worked).

Amongst the reasons given is the number of interruptions in the home environment, especially for people with children. Meetings are also a big time-drain.

Relaxing_home_work_Mary-Fleming-Design
Relaxing at home, remote work should look like this!

Every time your attention is drawn away, even for something small, it takes on average 15 minutes to bring yourself back to the point you were at pre-interuption.


I think this is particularly a problem for working mothers who are used to working in a location outside the home and have childcare support in place. If the kids are also at home while you are trying to concentrate on a work task, the pull is there to look after the kids. Plus the guilt can hit when you feel you’re not doing enough for them. This is set against the frustration of trying to get a good ‘run’ at a work task that requires your full focus. There is also no way of predicting how many times you will be disturbed. I used to be ‘on edge’ anticipating the next small person turning up at my door. Getting up early can be a good work-around but only if your kids are good sleepers!

Mothers_and_home_work_Mary-Fleming-Design
It’s particularly challenging for working-from-home and at-home mothers of smallies


What to do?

I feel the takeaway from this is to be aware that remote working or working from home is not all plain sailing. Getting pulled in all directions is par for the course! Sometimes it is easier to not fight the distractions, just get up and do whatever you need to do. Then come back to the work task later. Also, be mindful of sliding in to work extra time in order to make up for lost productivity. The law of diminishing returns applies here too! 

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