The psychology of Working from Home

Barron Williams post
Barron Williams

Find more articles

Working from home is now firmly entrenched. For many, it has been a steep learning curve. 

A better understanding of the psychology of working from home is something we as senior execs need to familiarise ourselves with.

Whilst the NHS is rolling out their vaccination program, and we now have an apparent road map out of the latest lockdown, we have seen a shift in attitude.

Remote working is clearly here for the long term, not just the pandemic… 

Will it ever be business as usual?

A recent survey of just under 1,000 firms by the IoD established that 74% plan on maintaining the increase in home working.

More than half planned on reducing their long-term use of work/office space too.

A smaller survey of bosses whose firms had already cut workplace use suggested that 44% of them thought working from home was proving “more effective”.

Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD, stated in a recent interview with the BBC that:

“Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay. Working from home doesn’t work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing.”

What have we gleaned from the pandemic?

I have a close friend who’s a senior exec at a large creative agency in London. 

His is an industry that has thrived on human interaction, getting together to “blue sky” ideas, working closely as a creative team to bring their client’s MarComm activity to life. 

Pre-COVID there was almost an unwritten rule that this had to be done in their Shoreditch studios, with the team commuting in from all corners of London and beyond.

When the pandemic hit there was a real concern that it would significantly impact on their ability to deliver, a reservation to take on any big projects. 

However, that turned out not to be the case. 

They’d placed many staff on furlough, and implemented a significant effort to quickly cut costs and preserve cash, but quickly had to back pedal.

What struck me with this was that they are such a progressive company, yet home working was almost viewed as ‘unworkable’. 

After only a few weeks of the first lockdown fears were quickly allayed, to the point where staff were brought off furlough and asked to work remotely. 

Client demand was still high but most encouraging for my friend was how the different teams were able to work together from home, from pitch to fulfilment, there was very little impact.

It has now raised the question, do they even need that expensive central London office? 

They probably do to be honest but maybe they’ll downsize and maintain greater flexibility?

And whilst their team pulled together during lockdown and successfully operated remotely, I think we all still miss that real world interaction, don’t we?

How do we move forward?

The question now is what can be done to support the success of your team(s) and their development while working remotely? 

We are social creatures after all…

How can we best manage, support, engage, challenge and develop people from afar?

After 12 months, many are still trying to figure out how best to utilise home working. 

With a possible return to some form of normality in sight, how do we retain the benefits of working from home?

We need to look at how we can adapt what we’ve learned over the last 12 months.

For many, there’s no going back to the ‘clocking in/out’ approach – With good reason!

For employers, there’s clearly opportunity and it’ll be interesting to see which organisations take advantage.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at what we think are the most critical psychological factors to consider for those we have working remotely: 

Critical Psychological Factors of Remote Working


Mental health is a big concern for many of the companies we work with. 

The pandemic has been (and still is) tough.

It’s important that people who continue to work from home post-lockdown still have access to the necessary support, and that they still feel part of a team.

COVID has forced many to work remotely but in the future should it be an option for those who want it? Those who’ve flourished and benefitted from it?

Can your organisation take advantage, harness flexibility and benefit accordingly?

How do your colleagues feel? 

Do they want to continue working from home or get back to the office?

Now more than ever, transparency is key, and it is important we keep everybody informed and involved. 

The future is likely to be more fluid, flexible, and leadership will be needed in alleviating any pressure or anxiety your team may feel. 

A good leader will listen and support.

A good employer will be flexible.

A canny employer will use the situation to strengthen employee engagement and increase job satisfaction.


Integral to that transparency we mentioned in the previous point is clear communication. 

We’ve missed face to face discussion, the coffee machine catch up, the impromptu corridor get-together.

Things can easily be misinterpreted via email, for example (or WhatsApp, Text, etc).

We can always pick up the phone of course but however we communicate, we still need to; set concise timeframes, ensure your team knows when to be online and available, what needs to be done and by when, etc. 

Establish which comms channel is best for different tasks/types of meeting, for example; email, text, phone call, Zoom, Teams, GoogleHangout, etc.

Interaction is still key. 

Inter-personal relationships are important. They need to be developed and maintained.

Working from home has the potential to radically improve the way we work and run our businesses. 

However, we need to balance the flexibility with business needs.

It’s important everybody knows how this will impact on them and, how we resolve issues when things go wrong, because they will as we learn more.


Working from home can of course be distracting. 

You need self-discipline and structure. 

You need to ensure those reporting to you are focussed and motivated. And feel supported – Demonstrably so!

Equip your team with necessary tools to ensure they can connect and function just as they would in the office.

Let them find their feet.

Establish catch-up meetings and routines for ‘soft’ discussions – How are you? Did you have a nice weekend?

If need be schedule tasks, timetables and set core virtual office hours when everyone’s available.

Beyond that, let people get on with it. 

Manage their own time.

The work will still get done. Productivity will increase.

Dress up, dress down, as long as you’re dressed.

I think the pandemic has focussed many of us on what’s important and what isn’t.

But please, save the PJ’s for the weekend!

Keep In Touch

It’s “good to talk” as the late Bob Hoskins said in the old BT friends and family advert (or “pick up the bloody phone” as my old Sales Director would say). 

During the lockdown, the lack of human interaction has been the hardest part for many.

However, working from home or remotely is nothing new for many too. 

We tend to default to it at Barron Williams, it suits us.

In Sales where individuals are on the road, it has been part and parcel of working life long before COVID.

And we all say the same thing… 

Human contact is important. You just don’t need to sit in a car for 2 hours a day in rush hour to benefit from it.

It can be too easy to just send emails and texts though. It takes effort to prioritise interaction over efficiency at times.

If you do find yourself or members of your team continuing to work from home, then it is important that a meeting is not the only form of human interaction.

We must do more than just talk shop. 

I’m guilty as charged on this one.

Call colleagues on your (and their) coffee break. 

Have a spot of lunch together over Zoom?

Check-in regularly with colleagues and ask how they’re doing, before getting down to business.

People need to feel part of things, so try to use video calls rather than email wherever possible. 

Make it personal!

Our recent article 13 business lessons learned from 2020 – A Managing Director speaks about the impact of COVID-19 highlighted how advantageous a daily pastoral call was to our manufacturing client.

Share Ideas & Info

Working from home has been a steep learning curve for many. 

Those who’ve found it to be a positive experience, and one they’ll hope to continue, share that experience with your network.

How do you avoid distractions and keep focussed? 

How do you structure your working day? 

If there’s any techniques that work for you, then there’s a good chance they’ll work for others.


Keeping a routine is good for the mind, helps us focus, gives us a sense of control.

Having a routine has been particularly helpful during the lockdowns, where it can be difficult to separate home from work. 

However, that clear separation is essential.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to struggle with this?

Try and set regular working hours. 

But remember to switch off too. Close the office door (and don’t be tempted to just do…).

Get up at the same time you would normally and ‘go to work’.

If possible try to have an area to work which is separate to where you live. 

A good desk, comfortable chair and good lighting and off you go!

Take A Break

Just as you would do in the office, it is still important to take regular breaks.

As a (so my wife tells me) workaholic I know how hard this can be.

I find it hard to step away from the desk. 

You tell yourself you’ll just send this email or make that quick call, and before you know it 3 or 4 hours have passed.

However, it is important we stop and refresh.

Break the day up. 

Get some fresh air. 

Run, walk, cycle, just something to get the heart rate up.

Have lunch away from the desk. Break means break. Out of office. 

You’ll  be more productive, refreshed and energised.

Many find working from home more productive (no need to commute, etc) but the flip side is it can blur the boundaries between Work/Life. 

You end up working evenings as there’s always that temptation to ‘just do a little bit more’. And let’s face it, there’s always things to do.

Working from home is positive if you maintain a healthy balance.

Is the future remote?

These psychological elements are all connected. 

Together they put us in the right frame of mind to perform our job remotely as effectively as we would in a busy office.

The important thing to remember is everybody is different, we all behave, think and feel in different way. 

Whilst working from home appeals and works for some, it isn’t a one size fits all.

Of course, there are many advantages of working from home. 

We can create a better Work/Life balance, remove the stress of the commute and it gives us location independence. Embrace it. Use it.

As businesses we can save significant costs, a happy workforce will inevitably lead to increased productivity and performance, improve diversity and inclusivity, and even reduce our carbon footprint (not those made in our WFH crocs and socks).

And whilst the pandemic has been the catalyst for remote working for many, the advantages of working from home will be here for the longterm. 

However, we must better understand the psychology to better lead and take the advantages working from home gives us.

If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

If you’re looking for your next role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation.

Barron Williams

Find more articles


How do you get the most out of your recruitment agency?


How do you get the most out of your recruitment agency?

Read More

Stepping back into a senior exec role after time away


Stepping back into a senior exec role after time away

Read More

The 5 biggest challenges facing recruiters in 2024


The 5 biggest challenges facing recruiters in 2024

Read More