Is it safe to continue working from home? I have met a number of people (via Zoom and elsewhere) who are praising the joys of working from home now that COVID-19 has forced office work to be transferred to the homes of workers.
The workers can spend more time in their pyjamas, avoid the long commute into the office, make limitless cups of coffee, work at their own pace, and probably have to spend less time in boring committee meetings. Pets love seeing more of their owners.
When the COVID-19 crisis eventually goes away (or we have learned to live with it), there will be some resistance from workers to go back to the daily commute to the office.
But will this be wise? Are there risks in continuing to work from home?
There are the usual concerns of work, health and safety. Employers will need to be assured that the domestic arrangements are satisfactory and there won't be claims later on for, among other things, bad backs arising out of poor posture from poor seating arrangements. Employers may become more intrusive about the conditions inside a person's home.
A bigger concern is, first, that people will be missing out on the office interactions. Office politics can be poisonous and time-wasting. But the politics is part of office life.
More to the point, a worker is being seen and heard, and is around for informal conversations. When there are new tasks, they are the ones first thought of. A person working diligently from home may become virtually invisible.
Woody Allen says that 80 per cent of success in life is showing up. Being in the right place at the right time.
The other 20 percent is following up. Making sure that agreements are carried out and work plans adhered to. Direct personal contact is helpful here too.
Second, being around means catching up on the gossip and informal ideas that circulate in the office atmosphere (and may not be committed to email and Zoom conversations).
There is a vibe in the office which is missing from home. The quality of tranquility that makes working from home so attractive, may also be a downside – it may not get the adrenaline running.
A Whitehall institution was the tea trolley in mid-morning and mid-afternoon. England's civil service ran on tea and biscuits. Standing in the queue waiting to be served was an ideal way of catching up informally on all the latest information.
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