The End Of The Office?
Can you embrace a possible new way of working?
Covid 19 has well and truly turned our world upside down. One aspect of our lives which has been undeniably affected is the world of work. With the nationwide lockdown came the closure of offices, with commuters forced to switch to makeshift home offices and corporate meetings making way for Zoom calls. Many businesses and workers alike are beginning to notice the potential economic benefits of working from home; no need to be paying for extortionate rented offices in the city, no watching your hard earned money flying straight out of your account to pay for an overpriced season ticket, and those quick pick me up trips to Pret in your lunch break sadly add up. This has raised the all-important question: are we witnessing the end of the office? And should this be viewed as a good or a bad thing?
For some, working from home has been a welcome revelation and the thought of going back to an office environment fills them with dread; and there are many reasons why these feelings are entirely valid. Firstly, the money that can be saved from working from home can be staggering. For example, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in and renting even a small room in a shared flat can obliterate a large chunk of most average salaries. Even if you choose to live outside of a city or town and commute to work, you can equally be spending a small fortune on transport, let alone the time that commuting removes from your day ( rush hour is no ones favourite time).
For many the time and money saved makes working from home make entire sense. Ultimately, no matter how passionate someone may be about their job, money and time allows us to indulge in the things in life that make it so great. A lot of workers may find the money they have saved will be able to fund their dream holiday, allow them to put their deposit on their first home and the time saved has allowed them to pick up a hobby they always wanted to try but never had time for, or cultivate a stronger relationship with their children or partner. Working from home can also provide a flexibility to create a work schedule which works for you.
Truthfully, not all jobs can enable flexible working hours, but for many, working from home has enabled them to create a routine which enables them to do more of the things they love, whilst actually increasing their productivity at work. It is also worth thinking about the wider positive impacts working from home can have. The turn to working from home could be a move towards more equal opportunities. People with disabilities or primary carers may not have been able to apply for positions they are more than qualified for due to the issue of transport or leaving someone vulnerable unattended, working from home makes roles previously out of reach fully accessible. The environment could also greatly benefit from this shift. Even in the short time lockdown bought travel to a standstill it was startling clear that the natural world was appreciating it. Less commuters means less pollution and with the time left to fix the climate crisis ticking away, maybe the decline of the office is a necessary part of the solution.
However, many other people who have been forced to work at home for the first time maybe itching to get back to the office, but why? The busy social atmosphere can drive productivity and some workers may find they thrive off interpersonal interaction. Not only are interpersonal interactions a nice addition to a day in the office, but they can also enable issues to be fixed quickly and directly. Although technology has come along leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades, it does not always behave itself! Bad Wifi and software issues are often far more difficult to fix remotely and the time wasted (not to mention the frustration) this results in can lead to slower productivity rates when compared to work in the office.
Working from home also begs the question, as nice as it is to be comfortable at work, is there such thing as being too comfortable? Sitting in bed with your laptop in your loungewear with little pressure to prepare yourself externally for a full day at the office can leave you feeling lost, lack lustre and in desperate need for structure. Working from home can make you feel there is no divide between your home and work life; being able to leave work at the door and fully relax can seem impossible when working from home, especially if you do not have the space to have a designated work room or office.
The ability to procrastinate without your boss or co workers giving you direct feedback can also be more tempting; slipping away from your desk to perform a household task, catch the end of that show you missed last night or take a quick nap can seem harmless, but can really effect your productivity in the long term if you form unhelpful habits. This is not to mention the rather large distractions of pets, children, partners or flatmates; again, the blurring of the line between work and home can complicate relationships and actually create added stress and tensions despite being able to see each other more.
Our country already has a great issue with loneliness which working from home could arguably exacerbate. With no in office interactions, less post work drinks and dinners with co-workers or in person networking events, the ability to broaden your social circle or have a healthy amount of social interaction maybe seriously effected for many, especially those who live remotely or alone. With mental health preservation more precious than ever this is a key issue to think about, as no amount of money should compromise the importance of worker health.
Ultimately, working from home and working from the office both have their pros and cons, but the perception of which is the better option depends on the individual. If the office does not die a death after the passing of the pandemic, maybe flexible working with workers allowed to have a mix between home and office time, possibly even a balance of their choosing. Hopefully one of the few positives which will come from the bleak year that has been 2020 is the understanding that workers are all different and unique, and so thrive in their own unique conditions.