We were told the internet revolution would bring about working from home (WFH), but as time passed with no change, it proved it wasn’t a tech issue but our cultural attitudes. Now that we’ve been given this, let’s not regress so willingly. 

Remote work or work from home were all mere whispers in many a workplace prior to 2020. Yet what we’ve witnessed as a result of the pandemic is a paradigm shift that saw this phenomenon collectively ushered in without any major resistance. 

But this is all a part-time, situation-predicated arrangement — you might say. A nice respite from the reality of work before we put Covid behind us and return to ‘normal’. And a number of bosses agree. Goldman Sachs‘ chief exec called WFH an ‘aberration’ that must be corrected ‘as soon as possible’. But this work from home ‘aberration’ was a concept well before Covid. 

Enter WFH

With the advent of the mid-digital, internet age, the right tech became available for a number of workers to no longer be at the office to work, promising a reinvention of the work/life balance. The internet had found a way into every part of our lives in this new age, including the way we worked, but it didn’t change how we worked. Despite all the promises that this tech brought with it, it didn’t change people’s attitudes towards work. No countries adopted WFH en masse, and so it became a rare, circumstantial luxury. 

So we continued as we were, while the world moved forward. Then came lockdown and the necessity to work from home, opening a Pandora’s box of opportunities. Soon enough, campaigners, think tanks and even whole companies began looking into this to see what, if any, benefits this new way of operating would bring.

WFH = More Happiness

‘Working from 9-5, what a way to make a living’, as the song goes; except that for many, especially those working in the big metropolises like London, it was 9-5 plus the commute time. This effectively meant that many of us spent pretty much the whole of our midweek days either working or travelling to work. But it wasn’t just the time lost in commuting. Studies show that people who had longer commutes were less happy than those with shorter ones. They got less sleep, less leisure time, and had to spend a lot more money to do it. Plus, for those with additional needs — wheelchair users, for example — it effectively made getting a higher paying job in cities like London virtually unattainable.

This all changed in March 2020 when Boris Johnson told the nation to begin working from home.  An immediate euphoria rushed over the nation as the rigid structure many of us laboured under came to a standstill. The initial buzz of it slowly left, but the undeniable advantages of working from home stayed relevant. For many of us, there was less stress, more happiness and better family relations. As many as 75 per cent of employees admitted to preferring this way of life. They had not just regained the time and money lost through endless travel, they also discovered a new balance that gave them more happiness. Simple.

Will we fight to keep Pandora’s box open?

It’s harder to take something back when you’ve already given people a taste of it. Now that we know what remote work is like, many of us don’t want to go back to the office full-time ever again

But the advent of WFH came at a time of great economic decline. The UK has borrowed more now than at any other time since WWII, with GDP at its lowest in 300 years. Faced with economic uncertainty, many might be too afraid to make waves when things return to ‘normal’ lest more eager competitors take their office jobs with no questions asked.

The battle begins …

Boris Johnson, the man who gave the order for workers to stay and work from home, is now downplaying the idea that this trend is here to stay. Perhaps pressured by big commercial office owners in the heart of London’s financial districts like Canary Wharf and even his own chancellor, who’s banked on a ‘consumption-based recovery‘, our new way of working faces a challenge from those who wish to see it end.

When it comes to employers, there is a keenness to have things go back to the way they were. After the first lockdown, a number were seen upping the ante in an effort to undermine the collective consensus of a society that has grown to like WFH. Various incentives were being offered to get people back into offices, such as free food and having your transport paid. But to what end were these incentives made? To make going to work at the office less miserable? Was there no way to make it more desirable?

But what about the economy? 

You might have been told that WFH will hinder our consumer-based recovery and the future of our economy. And so, our newfound freedoms need to take a backseat to it. But consumers determine the economy as much as it determines them. One previously radical proposal to redressing the work-life balance was the notion of a two-day weekend. Now ubiquitous, the two-day weekend saw businesses and services transform to cater to this change and the leisure economy was born.

Fight for your right to WFH

Some jobs clearly can’t be done from home, and some are remarkably better when performed in an office environment. But for all the other jobs, which see little (if any) drop in output but a huge increase in worker happiness and quality of life, we collectively need to make a stand. 

Whether we will continue working from home full-time or on a part-time basis remains to be seen. But the advantages of working less time at the office are worth more than any illusions bosses might have about a busy office building translating to higher productivity levels.

Come June, should the conversation about WFH arise, decide for yourself how you want to spend the next forty or so years of your life. The future is in your hands.

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