Back to working from home

The latest guidance for England is for workers to work from home if they can. For some that will be good news; for others it will be bad. The important thing in the longer term is that people have more choice over where they work.

woman working at home on the computer


So it’s back to working from home for those in England who can next week. While it’s not some people’s cup of tea, for many who have been forced back to the office it will come as a relief. The real longer-term issue – unrelated to the pandemic – is choice.

But so much bias still exists against working from home. I went onto Twitter the other morning, as usual. Not something I would do if I didn’t have to do it for work, but it can be useful when it comes to disseminating information [amid all the misinformation…]. It likes to foreground stories that will really annoy you so the first thing I saw was a Telegraph story with the headline What working from home does to your brain. Being the Telegraph, I knew it wasn’t going to be anything positive and, sure enough, based on some study of chess players, it showed being remote dulls your brain.

I’m pretty sure there are all sorts of studies that show all sorts of things about remote working and that it depends very much on lots of different circumstances. I’m also pretty sure that there are all sorts of studies about working in an office that show all sorts of things too. For instance, how does commuting affect levels of exhaustion and mental alertness? What about office politics? Rushing home to get back in time to pick up children from nursery can’t have a particularly positive impact on mental wellbeing unless you enjoy living your life against the clock.

There are a lot of studies which highlight the links between stress and lack of control over what you do, including when and where you do it. We know that stress is linked to burnout and that burnout levels have been high for years. I’m pretty sure that none of this has a particularly positive impact on your brain and, of course, many people drop out of jobs in the big urban centres because of the pressures.

Yet some media outlets seem to mainly focus on the negatives of remote working, often based on studies of remote working during Covid, which is an emergency situation; and when, during lockdowns, we were all isolated from everyone and our mental health was under siege due to worry about our health, our jobs, money, our relatives’ health, our children’s education and much, much more.

Why do they find working from home so terribly threatening that they feel the need to mainly portray the negatives? It’s the same when it comes to Prince Harry’s comments the other day about mental health. He basically said if your job is making you ill and you can, leave. Isn’t that just common sense? Of course, many people can’t leave their jobs, but why stay if you don’t have to? I spent a good few months being bullied by my boss in another job. I stayed to fight my case. I wouldn’t advise it now. By the time I left, I was unable to go into the office to hand in my pass without shaking and feeling physically ill. It took months to feel okay again and to rebuild my confidence. How was that a good thing? Why is it wrong to leave in that situation if you can? If, as an employer, you treat people badly you do not deserve to retain them and, with the current skills shortage, many people are voting with their feet.

You can only pump out so much one-sided fear mongering, though. I’ve been working from home for years now. Maybe my brain is completely addled, but I know I am much more productive than ever and much less stressed than I was before. Moreover, I get to spend valuable time with people I really like rather than wasting time on pointless power politics. Yes, some people like commuting to an office, but some people just don’t and what is so terrifying about giving people the choice?

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