The Cost of Working from Home during the Pandemic

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Millions of Americans shifted to working from home since the pandemic. And, they have concerns about their setup more than you think.

According to an Upwork survey, one in four Americans is working on a remote setup this year. This shift to remote work did not only affect how companies do their work as a team. It also affected how employees go from their day to day at home. During the pre-pandemic days, people focused on household and family matters at home. Once they leave for work, they also leave their concerns at home to focus at work. There were clear boundaries. Workers got to clear their heads off other concerns when they are at work.

But, there is more to convenience and comfort. With working from home, there are also concerns about work-life balance, expenses, and productivity.

What remote workers experience

Working from home has its benefits. Employees get to work without the need to dress up. They can multitask, do their daily tasks while attending to their kids or doing chores at home. Employees do not have to wake up early in the morning to catch the bus or the train. They get to save money from their usual work commute and lunch expenses. They also get to spend more time with their families as they do their daily jobs.

One would think that these are concerns only of those who shifted from office work to remote work. But, these are also concerns of freelance workers who have been used to working from home. This includes search engine optimization experts, virtual assistants, and social media managers. They attest that working from home, while convenient and comfortable, also has its disadvantages.

Here are common complaints of remote workers:

· Email fatigue

Forbes reported about the survey conducted by Wakefield Research, where respondents talked about email fatigue. In the survey, 89% of office workers complained about flooding of unopened emails and going over their Team or Slack inboxes. According to respondents, these are the downside of the remote work setup. Meanwhile, 38% of office workers said they are most likely to resign because of email fatigue. This is also more common among the younger generation.

using a laptop

Receiving tons of emails can cause anxiety. Not being able to respond to them quickly can add to the already stressful work tasks at hand. But, not only this. Since everyone can send emails any time, receiving them beyond working hours may cause stress to the employees. Because working hours aren’t very clear in the digital corporate world, this may cause burnout to office employees.

In the United Kingdom, the Prospect union is calling for the government to act on the issue of the right to disconnect. They are calling for the government to require companies with 50 employees and more to come up with terms on after-hours contact. According to reports, Italy and Spain had initially passed a law like this in 2017. Last February, the European Parliament recognized the right to disconnect and encouraged companies to focus on work-life balance.

· Rising electricity bills

Because remote workers had to be online at least during office hours, every remote worker has to have a stable internet connection. Their laptops are turned on the whole day, adding to the use of lights and air condition. Some even have multiple gadget setups, which consume more energy. Remote workers shoulder the electricity costs these days, compared to when they work in the office during the pre-pandemic.

According to reports in October 2020, industrial and commercial energy consumption showed a decrease by 15%. Meanwhile, residential energy consumption significantly increased by 10%. Researchers said there had been a $40-$50 increase in the monthly energy costs of every remote worker.

Because of this, there have been calls for the government to require companies to pay for the energy cost consumed by remote workers. Some companies already do this based on necessity. Meanwhile, others reimburse whatever cost was consumed during working hours. But, it is still debatable whether companies and employees can clearly define work-related from non-work-related energy consumption.

Such concerns of remote workers are valid. Yet, it is still up to the government on how to intervene between employers and employees. But the rights of both the company and the workers have to be considered according to present labor laws. Now that times are changing and the work dynamics have shifted, it might also be time for labor laws to adapt to the pandemic adjustments. For all we know, this remote work setup will continue even beyond the pandemic.

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