Original Research - Special Collection: COVID-19

Is working from home the new workplace panacea? Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for the future world of work

Jeremias J. de Klerk, Mandi Joubert, Hendrikjan F. Mosca
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 47 | a1883 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v47i0.1883 | © 2021 Jeremias J. de Klerk, Mandi Joubert, Hendrikjan F. Mosca | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 January 2021 | Published: 21 June 2021

About the author(s)

Jeremias J. de Klerk, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Bellville, South Africa
Mandi Joubert, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Bellville, South Africa
Hendrikjan F. Mosca, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Bellville, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of employees to work from home as governments implemented lockdowns.

Research purpose: This study examined the impact of working exclusively from home on employee engagement and experience, and determined beneficial and distracting factors.

Motivation for the study: Remote working trends have risen steeply since the onset of COVID-19 and are unlikely to taper off soon. Organisations need to understand the impact of remote work when reconsidering working arrangements.

Research approach/design and method: A dual-approach qualitative design was followed. The sample comprised 25 employees (N = 25) who were forced to work exclusively from home during COVID-19. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews.

Main findings: Working from home for protracted periods rendered paradoxical outcomes. Employees could work effectively with improved employee engagement and experience, but there were challenges rendering adverse effects. The experienced benefits of working from home created expectations that this practice would continue in future, along with some office work.

Practical/managerial implications: Organisations need to continue, though not exclusively, with work-from-home arrangements. The ideal ratio of remote work to office work was seen as two to three days per week. However, support and cultural practices would have to be put in place.

Contribution/value-add: The COVID-19 lockdown provided a unique environment to study remote work. For the first time, employees and organisations were placed in a situation where they could experience working from home in a stark and compulsory form, devoid of idealistic fantasies or romanticism.


Keywords

remote work; work from home; flexible work arrangements; employee engagement; employee experience; COVID-19; lockdown

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