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When the novelty of working from home goes, you’ll feel like a robot too

PUBLISHED: 08:11 16 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:11 16 July 2020

Working from home may seem like a dream, but we need real human interaction to be happy and fulfilled, says Rachel Moore

Working from home may seem like a dream, but we need real human interaction to be happy and fulfilled, says Rachel Moore

Archant

It may seem like a dream to many, but working from home is full of problems says Rachel Moore, who did it for 15 years

WFH – an acronym most of us had never uttered or even heard until this year.

WFH and furlough (an unknown word until Rishi Sunak’s March announcement of cash for workers to be paid to stay at home but still on a business’s books) are the two biggest changes, and threats, to the working world, and workers’ future health.

Some businesses have already announced WFH – working from home for those who have spent the last four months under a stone – will continue for staff into 2021.

Other bosses believe a dispersed workforce has worked so well they will embrace it as the “new normal” working model for the future, closing offices and with kitchen tables and beds (the nation has been run by people working from bed for months) to form the workstations of the future.

Bosses have realised that the WFH model is a win-win for them – massive cost savings to be made on rent of prime office space and all the overheads that having real people in an office bring.

Who needs the square footage of offices, the employee “incentives” of microwaves, tea-break sofas and fancy ergonomic furniture when staff can perch on their dining chairs with a laptop, especially if productivity is up and distractions are down, more for less?

Ker-ching.

Office occupancy in cities is already dropping like a stone. Tens of thousands of square feet of office space that has been empty during the pandemic are being cleared, with businesses shifting their operating models on the back of the Covid experience.

The WFH model also offers rich-pickings staff-wise. A business’s potential talent pool immediately widens if no one has to travel to work.

Why couldn’t the next recruit be sitting in his Manchester bedroom if he never has to work in the Norwich head office? Or Paris, New York or Tokyo for that matter?

And stopping workforces from travelling to work is one way to green-up the climate.

Trains and buses are now running practically empty and we’re supposed to be “getting back to normal”, so permanent removal of their passengers would impact on services and jobs there too.

Management might be rubbing their hands in glee at the impressive potential impact on their bottom line of a remote workforce they never see and potential vast choice of new recruits, but they are not hearing the warnings of the devastating widespread impact this “convenience” would have.

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The economic impact is obvious, with business hubs being turned into ghost towns, as shops and services that workers use around workplaces are driven into the ground.

Who needs shops anyway if WFH means people are always in for the deliveries? The new world will be online shopping all the way with public transport drivers switching to delivery drivers.

Almost half the workforce is WFH, according to the Office for National Statistics – and on top of that are 9.1 million furloughed workers.

Nine out of 10 workers say they want to stay working from home. It’s been great, they say, juggling work and putting the washing on, having coffee in the garden, letting the dog out and listening
to podcasts while they work, rather than BBC Radio 2 in the office.

Be careful what you wish for. Do you really want this life full-time? Living and working in isolation, like a hermit, with no live work interaction and communication limited to phone, Zoom and Teams calls?

It’s been glorious weather through lockdown. Can you imagine never going to work again, sitting at home through the dark and long winter with no workplace laughs?

Does living in PJs with no work wardrobe really appeal?

The novelty of rolling over in bed to pick up the laptop, logging on and spending the day “working” in bed will soon wear off, when there’s no going back

This week, psychiatrists warned of a “tsunami” of mental health issues coming from the lockdown.

Isolation, loneliness, depression, suffering from lack of human contact, plummeting confidence, paranoia… just some of the issues that lockdown has created. And bosses – and most workers – want this way of working to continue?

I worked at home for 15 years when my children were small. Self-employed, I had to work to earn. I’d never go back to that isolation again. It would send me doolally.

There’s nothing like working with the right team, feeding off each others’ ideas, having a laugh, learning from each other, finding out what’s going on.

Home working is like being locked in the office cupboard. You never leave, you’re in the dark about what’s going on – unless your company has the best internal communications – you’re trapped and chained to your computer at home and you’re lonely.

Colleagues bring stimulation – and irritation, which is all the joy about going to work. Where would we be without moaning about our colleagues’ peccadilloes?

WFH was a temporary emergency measure to get businesses through Covid. It’s not a cost-saving solution for businesses. It would also be the charter for the lazy.

Being more flexible for where and when staff, yes. Implementing WFH as the future work model, no. We’re human, not robots. We thrive on human interaction and need to be in a work “pack”.


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