A new report published by Lecture in Progress has explored the potential negative mental health impact of working remotely. The platform’s 2019 Insight report, called The State of Work, explores six of the most important and newsworthy topics affecting today’s workplace, including the rise of remote working, the proposals for a four day week, the viability of alternatives to university and the development of new legislation that would protect small businesses and freelancers from the late payment of fees.
Inspired by the announcement early this year that the German Labour Ministry was considering making it mandatory for all companies in the country to offer a work-from-home option, Lecture in Progress analysed the rise in remote working and its health impacts. It found that a growing number of tech start-ups – Basecamp, InVision, Buffer, Trello – are choosing to structure their companies so that the entire team works remotely, with just 25 per cent of creatives surveyed by US-based publication 99U saying that they saw themselves working in an office in the next five to ten years.
For the report, Lecture in Progress spoke to design and tech entrepreneur Jules Ehrhardt, who earlier in the year had voiced his concerns on Twitter about the simultaneous growth in remote working and mental health issues. Formerly a director at Ustwo, the Fktry founder spoke to the team about his own experience and the challenges for new grads, an extract of which you can read below.
What prompted you to talk about the mental health implications of remote work?
I went from one extreme to the other. [At Ustwo] I was often working in hyper-social studios of 50 to 100 people. Historically, in the agency space, there’s been a lot of expectation around employee presence. After selling my stake in the studio, I began building my new company, which was initially a solo effort. I spent about a year working remotely and realised how it was affecting me. I’m pretty resilient and had done some development coaching, so I was conscious of how I was feeling at any given time, and able to see which environments were good or bad for me. Remote working felt potentially risky, and dangerous. I took corrective action and built a routine that was more healthy, but it made me realise that if I did not have the benefit of a solid constitution and family life, it could be dangerous.
What impact do you think remote working has on new grads specifically?
Three things – first, how work gets developed. Learning how to collaborate is something that should be done in person. Those of us who’ve been working a little longer have mostly worked in collaborative environments, before potentially shifting to a blend of in-person and remote work. Secondly, going from an environment as social as student life to suddenly spending the week on your own, and not interacting with people… to me that contrast is risky. Then, in terms of creative output, a lot of stuff happens in studios as a result of serendipity; those random collisions, joining a conversation at lunch or joining a meeting you shouldn’t be in, but finding a spark in it. Taking all that away could stunt your creative development.
What responsibilities do you think employers have to staff that are working remotely?
Agencies have traditionally relied on a centralised workforce, so being able to properly support remote workers has to be an “active” project. There were plenty of ideas in that [Twitter] thread, whether that’s subsidising co-working space memberships, scheduling IRL team meetings, paying for massages, and things like that. I think if you’re recruiting, you have to analyse whether remote work is right for the wellbeing of the employee, and the impact it will have on the quality of the work you’re going to get from that person.
To read the whole interview, you can download Lecture in Progress’ full Insight Report when you become a member. It just takes a few moments to sign up and it’s completely free.