Almost immediately after it was suggested that during this pandemic those who can should work from home, people were talking about the benefits. All those lovely things that make working in an agile manner the best thing in the world: less commuting, flexible working hours, less synchronous conversations, etc. A recent Donald Clark Plan B blog covers several of the potential benefits that this new world may hold. And in general, I agree.
Some organisations across the world are talking about closing office-blocks, moving everyone to remote working on a permanent basis. From the perspective of the employer this makes great sense. Why have an entire building open with all the associated costs, when you can still deliver the same service by leveraging technology.
Discussions about post-pandemic return obviously recognise the need for staff wellbeing and focus on implementing social distancing thereby only allowing space for reduced staffing numbers or operating shift patterns to allow rush hour avoidance and over population of locations. With some employers considering whether all this disruption is adding to employee stress thus having an effect on their output.
If we are entering a brave new world where home-based working is becoming the norm this in itself raises wellbeing concerns. However, many of the conversations revolve around the easily known: working environment being ergonomic, climate controlled and safe; still feeling part of a team; maintaining separation between work and home life; setting availability expectations.
As known things, an employer can see them and considers identifying solutions as achievable. Therefore, they struggle to recognise that there would be other reasons for a person wanting to attend a physical office:
a break from the solitude – a few short video/phone conversations does not replace that feeling of being surrounded by other people and knowing you can stop at any moment and just have a chat
a break from the fear – sometimes the hours at work are a daily refuge for those trapped in a destructive or abusive relationship/family dynamic
a break from the pressure – for some having a relationship and/or family, whilst fulfilling, can sometimes feel ‘too much’ and they need the opportunity to surround themselves with others, whilst focusing on non-personal objectives
a break from the chaos – not everyone lives in a property with multiple rooms, lots of storage space or private (uninterrupted) workspace
a break for the health – some live in poorly maintained buildings that whilst structurally safe still affect their health both physically and psychologically
I am sure there are more reasons given that these are based purely on my own experience and an admittedly small sample of friends and colleagues. Yes these may be the extreme and not apply to the majority, but they are a reality for some and I would be surprised if that did not include at least one person you work with.
Is there a danger of sacrificing social health for economic performance? Is there a workable solution? Should it be the employer’s concern anyway?
Agile future – but what if they need the workplace by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.