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Working From Home Might Not Be in Everyone’s Best Interest
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us approach work. Particularly those of us who work in offices. For months, many office goers experienced what it was like to work from home for the first time. In some countries, people are still having to work remotely. Many welcomed this new way of life and are calling for the death of the office as we know it. For many others, however, trying to be productive from the spaces they live in is difficult if not impossible.
As we continue to struggle to keep the Coronavirus pandemic under control while simultaneously trying to keep our lives and economies going, we have had the opportunity to question many things about the way we lived “pre-COVID”. Work is one just element, particularly the necessity to be physically present in an office five days a week. Zoom replaced meeting rooms and, to many people’s surprise, business carried on as usual for the most part.
Before we rally behind the cries to close all offices for good, it’s worth taking a moment to stop and think about how different people have experienced working from home in a very different way to others.
Remote working: A different reality for some
For some, working from home means waking up at your own pace, making yourself a cup of coffee, settling down onto a desk in a quiet spot in the house and getting to work. No rush hour traffic, no office space distractions, just blissful autonomy.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for many people. A suitable workspace might not be available to people who cannot afford to live in a house or apartment big enough to provide it. For others, home might come with its own set of distractions that can make it impossible to get work done such as the presence of children or even sick family members. A high-speed internet connection might not be at everyone’s disposal. For others, working from home might, unfortunately, mean trying to work in a toxic or even abusive environment.
Studies have shown that a diverse workspace encourages creativity, innovation and increases productivity. Many of this will be lost if everyone stayed home.
Businesses already struggle to ensure diversity in the workforce and are constantly trying to fine-tune their recruitment processes to tackle this. Studies have shown that a diverse workspace encourages creativity, innovation and increases productivity. Many of this will be lost if everyone stayed home. By eliminating the office, people from different areas and backgrounds will spend less time away from their neighbourhoods reinforcing the polarisation of society.
The future of work?
The process of questioning what works best for us which arose from the pandemic could lead to some interesting results if we’re prepared to hear all sides of the story. Just like working from home is not the right option for everyone, we have also had the opportunity to assess whether or not working from an office works for everyone too. Some people find it difficult to concentrate in particular office environments such as open-plan spaces. Being geographically tied to our workspaces also dictates where we can live. This might mean having to settle for expensive and pokey city centre apartments rather than having the possibility to live somewhere quieter, with more room and more access to natural, open spaces.
Flexibility is key and a good mix of home and office work could make all the difference.
The financial benefits of encouraging remote working are also something to think about. Companies can save money on very high rent prices and bills. We can also consider the environmental implications of millions of people commuting at the same time at least 5 days a week. The arguments for moving away from the office are also very compelling.
The fact that we are having these conversations is a great first step. We need to take what works and what does not from all situations and create a working culture that benefits everyone in a different way by catering to everyone’s needs and addresses their limitations.
Flexibility is key and a good mix of home and office work could make all the difference. We also need to think about how our offices look and feel. Many people who do enjoy working from home do so because they have access to spaces that are vibrant and inspire creativity. We need to start designing office spaces around the needs of people and not focused on cost-effectiveness.
As it stands, the future is very uncertain and we’re not sure when we’ll be able to go back to “normal” again. The important thing is that we use this time to figure out how to create workspaces and cultures that can benefit everyone while encouraging personal and professional growth.