Is working from home responsible for all the problems of the world?

You would certainly think so if you read some of the papers…

Woman stretching at her desk

 

Not a day goes by, it seems, without someone taking a pop at working from home. Working from home, including hybrid working, appears to be to blame for all the post-Covid ills we face, for instance, the collapse of the health and social care systems [apparently from people WFH with bad backs], mental illness [even if those who want to WFH say it is better for their work life balance and presumably most of those who think it isn’t can go to the office], water shortages in Kent [too many work from homers drinking water], quiet quitting, the collapse of city centres and much, much more.

The Daily Mail published a photo last week of what a WFH woman might look like after a few years – hunchbacked, overweight and miserable apparently. This is presumably from being chained to their computer and drinking too much water…as opposed to people in offices who are gym-tastic models of good health. If this is the case, I’m amazed to be still alive and in fairly good health – far better than when I used to get an asthmatic cough after every cold when I commuted to work – after nearly two decades of WFH.

The constant stream of negative stories is becoming fairly ridiculous. I’m almost anticipating what ill WFH can be blamed for next – the rise of Putin? Climate disaster? One wonders what those serving up all this stuff are so afraid of. Is it because fewer commuters mean fewer people buying newspapers? Is any change in the status quo just too much to bear for those who think they are in power? I just struggle to understand what their problem is and the more rubbish they come up with the more I think people who know it is rubbish will resist.

And where have the press been when it comes to reporting on the challenges of working in the office? Have they failed to notice the number of people who have found commuting impossible due to family responsibilities, health issues, disability and the like?

WFH is not that new, in any event and, of course, not everyone can do it and there is a desperate need for more flexibility in all jobs. The problem is that no-one talks to the people who have been working from home for years to ask their views. In the past, they have not spoken up for fear of WFH being taken away from them, for fear that any slight challenge – for instance, a lack of tech support – will be blown up out of proportion to suggest WFH is somehow impossible rather than something that probably has a pretty simple solution.

WFH workers have long been treated with suspicion by managers who prefer the power associated with presenteeism so they have had to prove themselves by overworking. I know I have flexed right, left and centre to be able to be there for my kids and also for my work over the years. The whole edifice of decades of office working is stacked against remote workers, particularly those with children because the standards for the ideal mum and those for the ideal [office] worker clash and are impossible to bring together. WFH is the compromise for many.

On a personal note, I know that I am good at what I do, better than I was in the past before I had children because I know a whole lot more about life [and death]. I know I have a lot to contribute. I am tired of feeling that I am somehow second class because I am not in an office somewhere. Yes, there are drawbacks from working from home. There are drawbacks, for me at the very least, of being in the office. The drawbacks of working from the office far outweigh those associated with working from home for me when I think of all the hours of my children’s lives I would have missed if I was commuting all week long.

The whole argument about collaboration, creativity and isolation is a luxury for me. I have been endlessly creative and collaborative over the years of working from home, but remote working is how I am able to continue to work in a job I am good at and stay relatively sane.

There are surely many ways to improve remote working and to include remote workers better. I’d rather talk about these than wait for the next negative rubbish about WFH to tip up.



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