Mumbai: Working from the comforts of their own homes should, in theory, improve employee well being. However, new research suggests that working from home may have more disadvantages than perks. In a new Institute of Labor Economics study, Younghwan Song and Jia Gao of Union College examine the well-being of US-based salaried workers who worked at home and those who worked at offices and find that working at home is associated with higher levels of stress.

To show this, the authors use a measure of ‘subjective well-being’ based on a survey that asked respondents to rate the happiness, pain, sadness, stress, and tiredness they felt in carrying out certain activities. After analysing data from 3,962 respondents, they find that working from home is associated with a higher probability of having unpleasant feelings. According to the authors, these feelings arise because of the greater flexibility offered by working from home. The flexibility increases conflicting demands between work and home, creating stress for employees. The authors suggest that the only beneficial effect of working from home is reduced tiredness because of less commuting.

The authors also distinguish between working from home and bringing unfinished work home. They find that these two types of ‘homeworking’ have different impacts on workers’ well-being. Bringing work home can be more distressing compared with simply working from home. Again, the stress is created by the blurring between work and personal life. The authors suggest that the work-family time overlap can lead to more conflicts in the family and between couples.

Companies across the world are adopting more flexible work from home policies to help their employees, but these findings suggest that even these well-intentioned corporate policies may actually backfire.

ALSO READ | Does Telework Stress Employees Out? A Study on Working at Home and Subjective Well-Being for Wage/Salary Workers

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