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The 4 Most Common Work-From-Home Bad Habits

New research reveals who is most susceptible to WFH misconduct.

Key points

  • Working remotely from home has been embraced by many, but comes with its own confounding challenges.
  • Common problems include: feeling distracted by partners or kids, lacking motivation, and reduced movement throughout the day.
  • People high in the personality trait conscientiousness may be less likely to fall into common WFH traps.
InstagramFOTOGRAFIN / Pixabay
Source: InstagramFOTOGRAFIN / Pixabay

A new survey commissioned by Plugable, an American computer peripheral manufacturer and resource, found that scrolling through social media, shopping online, binging Netflix, and taking non-essential trips outside of the home were the four most common bad habits people have adopted since beginning a full-time work-from-home routine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is based on a recent survey of 2,000 American adults who are currently working remotely.

“According to the results of our study, working from home offers new flexibility that is greatly appreciated by employees,” said Plugable founder Bernie Thompson. “But it also comes with its own set of challenges.”

Chief among those challenges are (1) being sedentary, (2) distractions from kids or other family members, (3) lacking a productive workspace, (4) technical issues, and (5) finding ways to stay motivated throughout the day.

Working from home has also opened the door to other forms of unsanctioned workplace behavior. The team at Plugable reports that 17 percent of people admit to having drunk alcohol during the workday and 13 percent reported having sex during working hours.

On the other hand, only about one in six people indicated they that hadn’t picked up any bad habits since making the transition to a home office setting. Who are these exemplary employees? The data suggest that people who score high on the personality dimension of conscientiousness—that is, the tendency to be well-ordered, disciplined, and action-oriented—are most likely to fall into this category. This squares with previous research which shows conscientiousness to be one of the best predictors of occupational success.

But even conscientious types aren’t immune from picking up a bad habit or two in the transition to a full-time work-from-home routine. The researchers found that conscientious individuals were more likely than other personality types to use their phones to go on social media or browse the internet during the workday. They were also slightly more likely to shop online during working hours.

Interestingly, the data suggest that extraverts have made the transition to a home-based work setting better than might be expected. Extraverts, for instance, were no more likely to report being less productive as a result of the change to working from home. They also reported only marginal dips in their daily happiness.

One area where extraverts are struggling is being able to disconnect from work at the end of the workday. The ideal scenario for extraverts, it seems, is a hybrid employment model in which they spend part of their time working from home and part in the office. Introverts, on the other hand, appear happy to move to a permanent work-from-home setup.

The data also highlight some of the pros and cons of working in close proximity to one’s partner or spouse. Generally speaking, people view the increased time spent with their partner as a benefit to their relationship, reporting that their overall connection, as well as their sex life, has improved. But many workers indicate being easily distracted by their partner and feeling less productive when their partner is around. Incidentally, men are more likely to call out the downsides of working alongside their partners than women. Moreover, approximately 30 percent of people report being envious of their partner’s schedule.

Other research has pointed out the pros and cons of spending more time with one's romantic partner due to COVID-19 stay-at-home directives. The scientific consensus seems to be that couples with better coping skills going into the pandemic—such as being able to help each other relax by engaging in pleasant activities and dividing household chores equally—experienced increases in relationship satisfaction over the course of the pandemic. Couples with negative coping habits, on the other hand, have endured decreases in relationship satisfaction.

Bad habits, challenges, and opportunities notwithstanding, remote work is here to stay. Given the choice, most workers would opt to continue working from home for the long-term (47 percent), while 35 percent would elect a hybrid option, and just 17 percent would prefer to return to the office. One in five workers reports expecting to flex between home and office, leaving decision-makers with the need to adjust current office setups and perhaps adapt to hot-desking where available.

LinkedIn/Facebook image: Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock

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