Four months on from Downing Street’s panic-inducing letter and many people are still following this advice, even though in many cases it is perfectly safe for them to return to their place of work. This applies at the company I work for, and is something I want to come onto later, but for now I want to concentrate on the presumption, by government – but backed up by the MSM, that a substantial proportion of the UK workforce are able to perform their daily tasks from the comfort of their own homes.
The press has adopted a similar approach, probably because the days of investigative reporters, out on the streets sniffing out a story are long gone. Today, it far more usual to find journalists also stuck in front of a screen, and with lazy journalism increasingly common, it comes as no surprise for the government line to be reported on without question. Taken to extremes, we see exaggerated claims about the end of office life, the death of commuting and the rise of homeworking splashed all over the newspapers and online news providers.companies who have rushed to transfer the majority of their employees over to working from home need to be wary, as it may prove rather difficult in persuading them to return.
As it became obvious that the pandemic was going to cause major difficulties and pose a potential serious health risk, my company took the decision to allow employees to work from home. This applied primarily to mangers, but also those members of their teams who were able to contribute from home. The bulk of our production and packing teams were furloughed, under the government scheme, but a handful of keyworkers were retained, in order to keep things ticking over, and to receive and despatch goods, as necessary.
Not all managers followed suit, and after a while this
started to cause some resentment. This eventually turned to a rift within the
firm’s management structure, a situation not helped by communication problems
with those working at home. I obviously don't want to dwell on this too much, as it's an ongoing situation that needs resolving, so we'll leave it there for the time being.
From a personal viewpoint I really disliked working from home, as not only did I feel isolated, I also felt deprived of support from my colleagues. I missed having access to work facilities, such as equipment, record and publications not available electronically but most of all I missed the companionship and camaraderie of the workplace.
Working from home removes the delicate work-home balance, because when your workplace is the spare bedroom or the kitchen table, you feel as though you are never free from your job. It’s as though it has invaded your home and taken over your life. I know that during the lockdown these feelings became intolerable for many people. This piece in the Guardian sums up the situation nicely.
So, to sum up, once the pandemic is over – and it will eventually be over, I can’t see a large-scale switch to homeworking. Instead we will probably see a more flexible approach being adopted by many companies which will allow those employees who can, to spend say a couple of days working from home, but then back in the workplace for most of the week.
To explore some of the issues that could be raised by the decline of the office, it’s worth clicking on this link to Pub Curmudgeon’s site, in which he examines some of the knock-on effects that the abandonment of our city centres, would bring.