The Right To Work From Home: Good or Bad?

The right to home working

I happened upon an article in my MSN newsfeed…

I like the fact that it’s not immediately obvious of the source of articles on MSN. It strips away our inbuilt prejudices to particular publications.

As I read this article, my first thought was, “imagine working for someone like this, what a toxic boss they would be.”

I admit a small chuckle to myself when I tracked back the link and discovered it was that horrible right wing rag the Daily Mail, no surprise there then! (see, prejudice – I’m big enough to admit it!)

However, finding this roundup article in The Week has got me reflecting on the seismic shift in the way we do our jobs and run our businesses post pandemic.

Roundup article about homeworking

 

 

Office Life will never be the same again

On the one hand, I can understand argument that people working in the office are ‘seen’ so are more likely to be noticed. There is an argument that homeworkers will be subject to discrimination. (Discrimination that would disproportionately affect women who may be more likely to be care givers and work from home.) However, I  argue changing organisational culture would be the solution to this, rather than adopting a one size fits all approach.

I also resent his suggestion and sweeping assumption that ‘working at home’ is code for ‘skiving off’.

It’s a viewpoint that no doubt would appeal to those readers of The Mail who like to snootily pass judgement on ‘other people’ from inside the blinkers of their own superiority complex.*

(*I’m not suggesting all readers of the Daily Fail are like this – how very Daily Mail of me would that be if I was to cast such sweeping aspersions – but there will be a hard-core of readers who hold this world view.)

Making sweeping assumptions that homeworkers are lazy is demonstrably untrue. If it were, the entire economy, all social fabric and civilization as we know it in the UK would have entirely collapsed in the past 18 months!

Don’t forget, those homeworkers are often key workers. Without them, food and medical supply chains would have collapsed. The vaccine rollout would certainly have been far less successful without NHS workers coordinating logistics from their spare rooms and sofas!

These are the same people we were clapping for from our doorsteps a year ago.

 

Sometimes, home working is the only option

Personally, the 3-days-a-week consultancy contract I am currently working on would be impractical, inefficient if not impossible without remote working.

My clients are scattered across the country from Reading to the Isles of Scilly. (Yes, I have a client in the Isles of Scilly – she has a business cleaning holiday rentals). I’m in Bristol and my colleagues are in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh!

Working Remotely without being isolated

You could argue, that more home working is inevitable in our digital, service based economy. Much as conservatives (with a capital and small C) may dislike the pace of progress and change, several studies suggest  it’s a business model that is here to stay.

 

Who’s Stuck in the 70’s

Far from ‘dragging us back to the 1970’s’ -preventing employees from working from home when they can demonstrate they are able to work from home just as (if not more) effectively, is a business attitude that is truly trapped back there! I would argue that not offering flexible working to staff will alienate the next generation of talent. Workforces, attitudes to work/life and technology having been changing for a long time but the is Pandemic has bought it into sharp focus. Business that refuse to respond and fixate on ‘getting back to normal’ won’t last very long!

The only ‘Furious Bosses’ eluded to in the distinctively inflammatory language of The Fail, will be furious because they can’t micromanage and bully their staff as effectively when they are in another building!

While I can understand the view that town centres will be like ghost towns. I argue that when you stop viewing it through the lens of the immediate financial effect on business, it as an opportunity to radically shift the way we design and use public and commercial spaces, to benefit everyone.

 

No one has missed the traffic

The best thing for city dwellers during these restrictions has been reclaiming the streets from traffic. I doubt anyone has missed traffic jams and rush hours!

It was lovely going out to quiet roads in Lockdown 1.0. More people passing the time of day on the streets and using our green spaces. Coming home and not blowing black snot from my nose from the abysmal pollution that usually chokes the streets.

In Bristol, a recent study into the health effects of air pollution concluded that around 300 deaths per year can be attributed to exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO 2) and fine particulate matter.

Traffic pollution not only makes our city centres an unpleasant place to be, it kills. (And I say this as a car driver!)

Opinion pieces are missing the point

The opinions summed up in The Week fail to recognise the significant benefits to the environment from home working. But, there is a balance to be had.

Working at home full time can be isolating and affect your health in other ways – both physically and mentally.

I’m thankful for the Boost Breakthrough contract I work with on a Friday morning. Once a week I get out of the house and work among colleagues in real life. Much as it’s nice to be cosy at home on a wet day, I miss not seeing people. Or getting out to breathe in that fresher air!

We can and should still have people physically working in our offices in city centres.

For some jobs it’s a necessity. For some people it’s a necessity, depending on their home life and circumstances.

But insisting that everyone does so, all week, when they are able to work (often more efficiently) from home is counterproductive, environmentally damaging and unnecessary.

Let’s not go ‘back to normal’

We simple can’t go ‘back to normal’. Normal wasn’t working. It was destructive and unsustainable.

This is the time to rethink how we live our lives, for the benefit of ourselves and our environment.

We need to build a different economy. One that’s more inclusive and sustainable.

 

 

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