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The Strange Way Working From Home Improves Your Work Relationships

Sometimes less face time is better.

Photo by Jiří Wagner on Unsplash

Working from home has a lot of perks, like control over your schedule and being able to focus without distractions from your lovely—but very chatty—desk buddies. But it’s not a stretch to imagine that setting up shop at your kitchen table could affect your relationships with coworkers, managers and even your friends. Writer Katie Heaney explores this idea in an interesting Science of Us piece, finding that remote work might actually be good for our relationships both in and outside of the office.

Heaney, who’s been freelancing from home for a few months now, writes that she feared “working from home would officially transform me into a hermit.” In addition to being a hermit though, you’d miss out on office bonding, right?

Maybe not: studies suggest there’s “no difference in relationships with co-workers, and some improvement in overall relationships with supervisors” for people who work from home, Jeffrey Stanton, PhD, a professor of information studies at Syracuse University, told Heaney. This is partly because of tools like Slack and Google Hangouts that make communication both in and outside the office easy. (They also, as Stanton notes, help us keep in touch with the co-workers we want to be friendly with while essentially ignore the people we don’t.) The same tools can help reports decide when they’re available, and may help “managers to convey feedback more precisely (and with less fear of how it will be received),” Heaney writes.

Setting better work boundaries may give remote-workers more availability and attention to give to their children or partners, too, which may alleviate those hermit-fears Heaney voiced. Part of this, as Stanton explained, could be because in-person meetings and office small talk can be exhausting and without them, a remote worker could have more energy for socializing with the people they value outside of work.

Controlling your own schedule is one of the most desired benefits in a job, as we’ve written about before, plus there’s evidence to suggest that employees who have this flexibility are more engaged in their work. There’s also research suggesting that remote work options could help close the gender wage gap, as the New York Times reported earlier this year.

One challenge worth nothing though, is that setting work and life boundaries gets significantly more complicated when you can roll to work in your pajamas. To avoid blurring those lines, Heaney suggests exploring new opportunities—like joining a club or picking up a hobby—if you’re working from home. That’s good advice to in-office workers too, as making sure you have extracurriculars is key to leaving work stress at work.

Read more on Science of Us

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