The dark side of working from home

Posted September 6, 2016

It sounds appealing to not have to commute to and from work and instead get the job done from home in your pajamas. But as more employees gain flexible hours and adopt telecommuting, some things intrinsically tied to the office experience are lost, and the consequences of isolation increase.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that the number of American workers who said they’ve worked from home at some point was 37 percent, vastly up from the 9 percent who had worked from home in 1995, Quartz noted.

But while the arrangement that has largely been enabled by technology can have its benefits, especially for working parents, it can also come at a cost.

Those working from home can lose much of the collaborative nature of a job, Quartz argued. While there are messaging apps available, “there are times when a text-based conversation” doesn't have the meaning and nuance of a face-to-face discussion.

And the same technology that makes work more accessible from anywhere, also distorts the divide between work and personal life, Quartz stated. There are no work boundaries, and “the only way to actually disconnect nowadays is to travel somewhere without cell” or internet service.

The Next Web concurred that while working from home appears efficient and accommodating, it “has an evil side when we place it next to some very core tenets of human psychology.”

Isolation from the office and not working around others can lead to increased depression and decreased motivation, it noted.

And the appeal of working in pajamas takes a hit when a study has shown that wearing a suit led to more feelings of “self worth and importance” and an increase in general thought processes, The Next Web reported.

The arguments against working from home are not new, Quartz noted. In 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was publicly criticized for banning telecommuting among employees, considering it a “de facto parental penalty.” Mayer argued that “people are more productive when they’re alone… but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.”

TechRepublic offers this to identify those who might not be good telecommuters:

  • You get distracted, either by external stimuli or internal thoughts
  • You can’t set up the equipment necessary for your job
  • You can’t maintain substantive contact with the office
  • You don’t do well without structure
  • You can’t work independently or hate missing collaborations
  • You can’t establish boundaries between yourself and friends, family, neighbors
  • You have difficulty quitting for the day
And had tips to overcome the loneliness and isolation of working from home:

  • Mix it up by working outside the home, such as in a café or library.
  • Make lunch and dinner dates with friends
  • Visit the office now and again, if you can. It keeps you better informed.
  • Go for walks during lunch or breaks. It helps clear the head and makes for better brainstorming.
  • Set up a chat network with other telecommuters.
  • Take advantage of social media. Yes, it’s a distraction, but it’s also a way to stay connected to others.

Email:, Twitter: @Sarahsonofander.


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