Homeworking: employees love it; employers, not so much
We’re all aware how much remote working became a thing during the pandemic—but that was at a time when UK Plc had no choice but to work from home where possible.
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In this post, I am, of course, talking about roles that can, operationally, be carried out remotely. Obviously, there are some jobs that are either frontline services or customer-facing, which must be delivered in a shared workplace. Those working in such roles may envy those who can work from home but, whilst there are many benefits in doing so, there are also some downsides.
In the competitive job market the pandemic created, remote jobs, or a hybrid mode of working, became common. As someone who juggles a number of part-time roles, I always keep my eye out for suitable opportunities, and the trend for remote working doesn’t look to have disappeared.
According to a new study, the office week has shrunk to Tuesday – Thursday, with Mondays and Fridays being popular days to ditch the commute and the formalwear to catch up on work from home. London on a Friday as a result is now, apparently, a ghost town.
Though employers would love to revel in how modern they are, and how flexible they’ve become, I personally don’t see or feel the evidence to back this up. Lots of the remote jobs I’ve looked at require monthly visits to ‘headquarters’. This could be many miles from where I live; if this is the case, the job isn’t fully remote. You’d still need to be near enough the company’s base to make it work. In such a scenario, for example, you wouldn’t get someone from Dundee applying for a role in Devon, as that monthly ‘check in’ would prove costly in both time and money. Remote should mean remote. In that anyone across the UK could apply for, and deliver, the role.
Another gripe of mine when it comes to the subject of remote working is that there are still some employers who are focused on hours=productivity. They believe their employees will simply slack off at home where they won’t be watched. Or they’re not someone who themselves enjoy homeworking, so they insist their whole workforce traipses into the office every day. My jobs can all be delivered remotely, but I’m required to be on-site in one or two of them. I don’t use their equipment—I provide and use my own laptop; there’s nothing a team Zoom or phone call couldn’t solve if direction were needed. But still, I commute because I know my boss would refuse my request to work from home. I just wish every employer was as keen on the premise of output=productivity.
I admit that I can find it a little more difficult to motivate myself at home. But I’d have, at least, an extra four hours a week in which to procrastinate, as I wouldn’t need to commute to a workplace and back, and there’s no way I’d procrastinate for that long without getting fed up with myself. There are fewer distractions at home; at work, there are often social conversations (zero productivity) and other things occurring that prevent me from working or which interrupt my concentration. I’ve done the legwork—I’ve carried out wholly-remote roles, I work from an office and I’m familiar with a hybrid of the two.
Believe me, the ‘shared workplace’ ain’t all that.
Though Covid is not the reason for staying at home, the flexibility it offers is so, so attractive. I can nip to the post office if I need to catch the post. I’d be home for any deliveries. I can choose what to eat when dinnertime arrives, instead of having to predict what I may fancy when 12.30pm rolls around. I can adjust my workspace accordingly. I can turn up the heating if I want to (a BIG deal if you work in a place where you’re always the coldest person present). I don’t have to queue up if I want to go to the loo at home. I can just get on with everything.
Technology exists to support remote working. I don’t mind the odd check-in with the team in person (as long as I’m not travelling the best part of a morning/afternoon to get there and back), but it’s not necessary each week (or even, each month).
It’s little wonder that London is a ghost town on Fridays. I can’t think of anything worse than pushing my way through the capital and being subject to substandard public transport to get together with people that would look and sound exactly the same on screen.
I have veered in my opinion, believe it or not. Around a year ago, I wrote this, which completely contradicts what I’m saying here. Maybe it’s because, now that we’re out of the pandemic and the roads, shops and our social lives are full to the brim, I actually find it calming to be at home, alone, in front of my computer. Every other aspect of my life has caught up to (and, in some aspects, exceeded) pre-pandemic levels. I no longer crave company as I can find it elsewhere. I can better discipline myself as my kids are rarely at home now that their own work lives have started back up. At the same time, the commute to work has got infinitely worse with impatient, selfish drivers, and my alarm seems to go off earlier every morning (it doesn’t).
I think everyone that can should have the option to work from home without any pressure from their employers. I also think that if a role is billed as remote it should deliver on that promise.
For me, the love affair I struck up with the shared office a couple of years ago has definitely waned