• More people are working remotely due to the spread of COVID-19. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
"Week 5 of working from home because of coronavirus, and I’m starting to miss my human colleagues."
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

5 Mar 2020 - 2:03 PM  UPDATED 19 Mar 2020 - 12:36 PM

I've worked from home in a full-time capacity for three years now.

In that time, I've enjoyed many of the perks that come with working remotely, including, but not limited to: starting the work day without having showered or brushed my teeth, sending off emails in my underwear (helpful in combating the oppressive heat of a Queensland summer!), and 'coming to' from a comatose-like state, only to realise I've been staring at my sleeping cat for the better part of an hour.

Oops!

In all seriousness, working from home has been on an upward trend in recent years, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting in 2016 that almost a third (3.5 million) of all employed Australians regularly worked from home.

"42 per cent of those who regularly work from home cited catching up on work as the main reason," said Jennifer Humphrys, Director of Labour Market Analytics at the ABS. "A further 20 per cent regularly worked from home because they wanted an office or didn't want to pay rent or overheads."

Additional research conducted by Indeed in 2019 found that 68 per cent of Australian employers are now allowing employees to work remotely, citing increased productivity and morale, as well as reduced employee turnovers.

However, the work-from-home movement has been bolstered in recent months by growing fears over the spread of COVID-19, with Recode reporting a dramatic spike in the United States.

According to financial data platform Sentieo, the month of February saw 77 public company transcripts mention the phrases “work from home” or “working from home,” up from only FOUR mentions of the phrase this time last year, with an overwhelming majority of documents also mentioning coronavirus.

Now, with international companies including Google and Twitter sending workers home, some are wondering whether ongoing vigilance around the coronavirus will have lasting impacts on how Australian employers and employees view working remotely.

While some advocates for working from home have celebrated the boom, in a post on social media, writer Hank Green reflected on the possible downsides.

"This might be dumb, but I'm actually a little worried about growth in working from home," he tweeted. "Since work is one of the only places adults find community and new friendships these days. I'm not saying that's how it should be, but it is how it is."

While I've enjoyed working from home, and have been incredible grateful for flexible employment, I've also experienced the numerous downsides of an isolated work environment. As someone living with depression and anxiety, I often going entire days without saying a word out loud, which can make it more difficult to become 'unstuck' from negative thinking patterns. I miss having coffee with my colleagues, hearing about other workers' families, and sharing thoughts on TV shows and news events.

"Week 5 of working from home because of coronavirus, and I’m starting to miss my human colleagues," one social media user tweeted, sharing a photo of her laptop surrounded by plush toys.

Speaking to The Guardian, Matthew Knight of Leapers, a community that supports the mental health of freelancers, had some advice for those finding themselves working from home for the first time.

“Don’t just suffer in silence,” he told the publication. “Let your manager or co-workers know how you’re feeling. Nine times out of 10, sharing how you’re feeling with people really helps.”

And one word of wisdom from this self-employed work-from-home-er: group chats are the office kitchens of the future.