Work From Home—Is the dream dead?

Pulse Flash Read Work from home (WFH) was the future many of us dreamed of. Then 2020 happened. WFH is no longer a choice, it’s the rule. Rules are always less fun than dreams. Google, in a move that has nothing to do with deflecting headlines away from recent outages or employee dismissals, announced that WFH will be in place until September 2021. After this, staff will be offered the flexibility to choose their own schedule. So long as they’re in the office at least 3 days a week... And live within commuting distance... So, flexibility within certain limits then?  Jack Dorsey, in a move befitting his sartorial choices, has taken a more relaxed approach. Employees at his companies Twitter and Square will always have the option to WFH. Up in Canada, Shopify also took an early stance on this, with CEO Tobias Lutke tweeting a move to ‘digital by default’, and proclaiming ‘office centricity is over’ just a year after moving the Toronto office into very desirable real-estate. What will be the right approach once the return to the office gets the green light? WFH has some obvious benefits: no commute time spent in traffic/under someone’s armpit on public transport/sweating into your favourite shirt on the cycle in. All day sweatpants. Money saved on lunch/coffees. All the meal prepping, laundry loading and other chores that can be done in those little breaks. But for every positive there’s a flip side. It turns out the separation of work and home can be a good thing. Some are even incorporating fake commutes into their workday; a ritualistic act that, despite being circular, helps trick their brains into separating ‘work mode’ and ‘rest mode’. For others, the all-day-sweatpants phenomenon dilutes the joy of getting into sweatpants at the end of the day. WFH can be downright damaging for mental health in some situations—if homes aren’t set up to provide adequate work space, the overlap can be volatile for relationships with spouses or housemates, and lack of contact with colleagues can feel isolating. Add to that the burdens of perpetually present kids, pets and chores, and suddenly productivity seems like a futile quest; a drip feed of stress in danger of becoming chronic. That loss of compartmentalization can be negative for the organization, too. Flexi-time was a wonderful way to attract top talent. Now we’re all on perma-flexi-time, so how do companies differentiate their offerings? Facebook wants to lower employee salaries for those who go remote to lower cost-of-living areas, a move met with much scorn. Perhaps some orgs will offer higher remote salaries regardless of location? Or should employees be encouraged to expense coworking spaces on an ad hoc basis, for those working remotely but still needing a separate ‘space’? Perhaps government tax relief could even help orgs fund such initiatives? Ultimately, in business as in life, flexibility might be the key. One size fits all might simplify strategy and operations, but it probably won’t get the most out of employees. Leaders might question why they feel strongly either way—especially those situated in Silicon Valley where it might be hard to let go of the idea of in-person networking. But, seeing as we’ve all gone remote and work hasn't simply stopped in a haze of cheese puffs and Netflix, maybe we can permanently leave behind the idea that ‘work’ needs occur in a time and place in order to be considered effective. Perhaps the dream wasn’t WFH after all. All we wanted was the freedom to choose how we get our work done. And what we wear while doing it, dammit. 

What’s your view on WFH? What have you loved about it/struggled with?

Will be wonderful if WFH can be kept as an option. I miss going to the office and meeting people. But being able to have an option to work from home will be great as it says travel time and more productive.

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Will be wonderful if WFH can be kept as an option. I miss going to the office and meeting people. But being able to have an option to work from home will be great as it says travel time and more productive.
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Anonymous Author
Yes, I always though of those lucky individuals who could work from home.  Over this past year as I have been required to WFH, that glamour has faded.  I look back and decided people interaction seemed to be a key part of going to the office.  My colleague has indicated the same to me.  But, what did I actually do in the office that I couldn't do at home.  I have sense acclimated myself to actually being more productive working from home then going into the office.  My wife reminds me of that....  In the end, I believe, like most people have learned, we have the tools now days to make WFH almost the new norm.  Now, moving forward, lets see if working from home becomes an option as a new norm.
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