There’s been a recent spate of commentary on how working from home has eroded employees’ mental health, engagement, work-life balance, and more. And while there is some truth to those accounts, and some people have suffered emotionally, the reality is more complicated.
The fact is that there are a great many employees who have not only survived, but thrived, while working from home. And certain personality traits accurately predict whether someone is going to love or hate the experience of working from home.
In a new report called The Truth About Working From Home In 24 Shocking Charts, Leadership IQ surveyed 3,706 employees currently working from home to measure their experiences. Respondents answered more than two dozen questions about working from home, as well as questions about their psychological makeup.
One of the findings discovered that 39% of remote employees say that their work-life balance is much better working from home, and an additional 20% say it’s a little better. Right there, we’ve got 59% of people who find that their work-life balance has improved while working from home (and that statistic should be top-of-mind for every CEO and HR executive).
And as you can see in the chart below, only 13% say their work-life balance is much better working in an office and 14% say it’s a little better.
Clearly, a majority of people have found benefits to working from home. But when we dissect these results along certain personality traits, we find an even more striking disparity.
One of the characteristics measured in this study is resilience. Essentially, people high in resilience are better able to bounce back quickly from failure, adversity, tragedy, stress, and more. In this study, we measured resilience with the question, “When I make a mistake, I immediately start looking for another chance to try again.” (If you want to measure your own resilience, take the online assessment “Resiliency Test: How Do You Respond To Adversity?”).
As you can see in the chart below, 52% of people with high resilience found that their work-life balance was much better working from home, and only 23% found that it was much better or a little better working in an office.
By contrast, only 33% of people with low resilience found that their work-life balance was much better working from home, and 33% found that it was much better or a little better working in an office.
Can resilience be taught? Yes, and in fact, resilience is one of the 18 Outlooks that drive employee engagement. In other words, people who develop greater resilience actually find themselves far more engaged at work.
Why is resilience so important to increasing work-life balance? For starters, think about the stress levels of the initial rush to work from home. Technology wasn’t ready, daily procedures hadn’t been developed, and routines hadn’t been established. Someone with low resilience is going to be emotionally overwhelmed by the onslaught of frenzied and muddled directions.
By contrast, an employee high in resilience is going to bounce back and try again, no matter how badly yesterday went. And that insight leads to a critical technique to increase your own resilience.
The next time you’re working from home and everything seems to be going wrong, quickly assess whether you’re willing to just chalk it up to a horrible day and try again. If you’re willing to let the horribleness go, and just move forward, that’s a great sign of resilience. But if you find that you’re hesitant to immediately try again, ask yourself why. Are you truly expecting to find some root cause issue or a mistake that you made? And if so, how long are you giving yourself to discover that root cause or mistake? I find that many people say they want to analyze their mistakes, but they don’t put a formal cap on how long they’re taking to do so. So they get stuck in a never-ending spiral of rumination, which ultimately serves as a form of procrastination, rather than as a true problem-correcting endeavor.
To overcome the rumination spiral, and develop your resilience, give yourself one full day to pick apart your mistakes or find the root cause, and then, if you haven’t discovered a specific correction you can implement, force yourself to try again. By capping how much time you give yourself to process root causes or mistakes, you force yourself to more quickly get back out there and try again.
Notwithstanding the wonderful potential of working from home, there are going to be days that are terrible. That’s no different than working in office, but when we’re working from home, it’s natural to ascribe any disruptions to our new working environment, rather than as a naturally-occurring phenomenon for anyone working in 2020. So accept that some days are going to be rough, and when you experience those rough days, let it fade from your memory and try again. And if you can’t let that terrible day just fade away, give yourself one day to process it and then force yourself to start over.