Dr Wladislaw Rivkin from Aston University looks at what effect the coronavirus has had on working.
Sputnik: How has the coronavirus affected work and normality?
Wladislaw Rivkin: I think the most significant change which affects most employees is the shift to remote work or what is in the colloquial language referred to as working from home and obviously, this shift necessitates quite strong adaptation from employees - especially if they didn't have the experience to work remotely. To give you an example, so for us as academics, it's reasonably easy to adapt to this mode of work because we are quite used to it. However, if you haven't worked remotely before you may not have the right equipment at home to work from home. My partner, for example, it was quite interesting because in the beginning of the lockdown they had difficulties with internet connections because obviously, as most people work from home the bandwidth was quite strained through that and this obviously required to adaptions from employees themselves and be adaptation necessitates self-control or adaptive behaviour to external requirements.
Sputnik: What can individuals working at home do to protect their mental health and make the most out of their new situation?
Wladislaw Rivkin: One thing which is important when working from home is to some degree to have boundaries. We did some research in recent years on psychological detachment as a concept of refraining from work during non-work time, not looking at emails and so on. The difficulty when working from home is obviously that it becomes more difficult to detach because there are no clear boundaries between work and home life. If you work in the office you can leave the office and this helps already with detachment, whereas if you work from home obviously you can't leave home. I mean of course you can but it's not the same thing. So, the question would be how can employees create these boundaries and these boundaries can, for example, be created physically; so, people have the opportunity then obviously working in a different room, compared to the one people spend their leisure time in can be helpful. The boundaries can also be in regard to time. So, for example setting strict deadlines in terms of time when people start and finish working. The boundaries can also be created mentally by for example, doing something which very strongly drops attention after work to be distracted from work-related tasks or work-related communication and non-work time.
Sputnik: Could working from home become the new normal post virus going forwards?
Wladislaw Rivkin: I don't think it will become the new normal. I think we really had this trend already when computers and equipment to work from home became more available and I mean what we have been experiencing, obviously before the pandemic started, is a reduction rather than an increase in work from home and this can be seen by increased commuting. I think however people after the pandemic and after the lockdown measures will be given more opportunities to work from home by their employers because I think with this sort of societal experiment if you want to call it that, employers will realise that people can be productive and effective from home and that's what I anticipate is that people will have more opportunities to work from home. However, I don't think that we will completely shift to work from home mode for people barely or occasionally go to the office. I think there's especially because being in the office has advantages and I'm not affected by that but I have a lot of colleagues who have children and for them working from home it's obviously much more difficult, much more challenging, and also it's important to not neglect that there could be gender differences and the ability or the availability to work from home; in the sense that most families with children, childcare with responsibilities are passed down to women. So, in these cases women are much less productive because they have to take care of other things. They have to basically engage in home schooling and so on compared to men and we're experiencing also quite a gender divide in this regard therefore I don't think it will become the new normal. However, I think what will happen is the opportunities to work from home will increase.
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