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Happiness and health when working from home

  • Remote Work

Justin Timmer is our In-House Researcher. Contact him via

working from home

How is working from home going?

“Things are going well” is something we automatically answer to questions like: “how are you?”, “how is work going?”, or “how are things at home?”. It is nice when things are going well and when everything is running smoothly. Colleagues and employers also like to hear that you are doing well. If things are not going well, you are obviously doing something wrong, which is not nice to realise about yourself, let alone that your employer and colleagues will think so too. Working from home and behind webcams has made it a lot easier to pretend to the outside world that things are going well. The micro-signals over people’s well-being are harder to pick up through the camera. Most of the time, the webcams are off and everyone is alone in their room.

On the other side, for employees, it’s good to hear that everything around the company is doing great and that employers are happy with the work being done. Managers want to remain positive, acknowledging they choose the right strategy and keep up the morale with their employees. Working from home enhances the possibility of talking in positive ways since there is less (informal) peer-to-peer contact and less information is disseminated through (formal) aisles.

I am doing (just) fine / I am always (not) doing fine

It’s hard to define “doing well”. Therefore, it’s quite easy to put a mask on, be vague and short on details to the people around you. You can always find something which is going great and emphasize it. But one of the additional risks of more autonomy in working from home is that employees focus mainly on good things and avoid the difficult aspects of their lives. In addition, there is also the “positive feedback” trend that makes the negative aspects fade even further into the background. The tasks not done or done poorly accumulate and grow like a bubble under the mask of a daily (fake) doing well. Only when very specific, targeted questions are asked about the specific progress, which can no longer be avoided, the real issues reveal. The consequences of breaking such a bubble can be very large, from burn-outs to widespread misinformation within the organisation.

What I don’t claim is that we have to focus more on preventing burn-outs and misinformation, no, we have to focus on reality: the things that are really happening. The bubbles expanding against each other give an unreal picture of reality. We all like to do our hair up for the camera and talk about nice weekends, but we do not like to share our Netflix addictions or our mistakes and uncertainties. Although, for many organisations transparency is a high core value. Open communication is important to stay connected because ultimately, everyone in the organisation is working towards the same goal.

Well-being and transparency

Being honest and open about our well-being starts with taking more time for (in)formal conversations with colleagues and employees. It starts with switching off the automatic (“things are going well”) pilot so that you can ask different (specific) questions and answer them differently, think about it for a moment, tell the truth, and tell how you are coping. Then you can indicate your needs. An organisation investing in employee well-being and (mental) health can see a great return of investments for productivity, retention and health costs.

As previously analysed in our whitepapers on mental health and healthy workplaces.  To collect and analyse your employees’ well-being data, you can use Habital. An app where employees share, anonymously and transparently, how they are doing at work (from home). Same as, what is limiting them while performing their activities. Through dashboards, you can see where and which groups have the potential to achieve the fastest and most profit. By means of increasing productivity, health and happiness factors. The current working from home situation is challenging and influences everyone differently. Thus, it has become essential to gain a clear overview of this sort of data for organisations to effectively overcome it.

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