Or: working from home is horrible!
Like so many things, it is fifty-fifty. Yes, working from home is great and yes it is horrible. It can be hard if you have three young children (even if you also hear parents complaining about teenagers in the house). A film went viral in Turkey in which a man films himself at different times of the day in different places in his house and he runs into his wife each single time. That is also working from home. Tasks should be really well distributed, especially if my wife, my two sons and I have online sessions. Our WiFi couldn’t handle it at some point and I had to buy additional hardware. Fortunately, primary schools have started and we have two “home workers” less at home.
Body language of people
You miss your colleagues, you miss the gossip during the breaks or the lunch walk. You even miss the meetings that are usually so boring that you still take your smartphone to scroll on social media. Most of all, you miss the energy and body language of people that you have to convince or that you tell something important. Online sessions have all kinds of issues that have been written about a lot.
Here I want to focus more on the offices of the future. “Even before the coronavirus hit, the obvious presence in offices began to falter. A combination of rising rents, the digital revolution and increasing demand for flexible working meant that the population was increasingly able to work from home. Corona made this commonplace in one fell swoop ” says an article in 1843 Magazine.
Almost everyone with an office job is now at home! And luckily we live in a country where the technical infrastructure is in order. My brother-in-law has an internet company with three employees in India. And he had to buy laptops for them to let them be able to work from home In the Netherlands, you also saw initiatives to arrange this especially for children without laptops.
Speculations on the web
On the web, a slew of clever architecture and design experts are speculating about what post-pandemic offices will look like, focusing on changes such as better air filtration etc. While packed with innovative ideas to reduce the risk of contamination, these articles all include a simple yet welcome solution: more walls.
“When you reach your floor, you can walk into a room full of room dividers and spacious desks instead of the crowded open space you’re used to” writes Rani Molla on Vox. Speaking to several experts, she concludes that we will see more wall and wall dividers of all kinds when we eventually go back to the office (at least for some, as many continue to work from home).
“Social distancing will be built in, separating people with barriers and separating them from colleagues and customers, a reversal after years of moving toward open spaces” a similar piece from Bloomberg News agrees. Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays, has said that large corporate offices can become a “thing of the past.” For years, studies have shown that open spaces facilitate the spread of germs, increasing the chance of workers getting sick.
Eating a spicy smelling dish at your desk
At a certain moment we also switched to open spaces. In the beginning it was fine! You saw all your colleagues together and you didn’t have “room” teams. Because you had the best contacts with the people in your room. Now you also saw and heard colleagues from other rooms and that was sometimes a revelation in a positive, sometimes in a negative sense. The first complaints soon arrived; eating a spicy-smelling dish at your desk, noisily talking, hard laughing. So every employee received headphones that could optimally eliminate outside noise. You also saw the same colleague sitting in the same place almost in a position to put a towel.
I personally have nothing against office gardens and open spaces, but I have read too many articles claiming that production is actually falling. And secretly I notice it myself. When I work at home or in a quiet room at the office, I have done a lot more work in a much shorter time. Studies are also available that indicate that people who work from home continue to work longer, including in the evening and even on weekends. They organize their time themselves. As long as the work is finished right? That is the most important measuring instrument in this.
In the meantime, we see that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Slack indicate that they will partially or completely leave employees working from home until the end of 2020. I also increasingly believe in a hybrid form. Just like many educational institutions, who want to try this after the summer. Half online and the other half physically present. Why shouldn’t we make thisthe new normal? As much as possible at home and one or two days a week to the office. Saves traffic jams, stress, travel time, travel costs, CO2 emissions … Employees do not have to rush for their children or to do their shopping.
App to check employee interactions
And if we often have to come to the office, we are monitored via our body temperature, sensors and apps to see whether we are actually adhering to social distancing. PwC said it is preparing to launch an employer phone app this month that will track contacts by analyzing employee interactions in the office. More than fifty customers have expressed interest, including some of the country’s largest banks, manufacturers and energy companies.
Hotels try to make a virtue of necessity and offer work-at-home rooms that can be rented for one or more half days. I believe that we will be able to rent such spaces more often, so that we no longer have to travel if we really do not want running children around us and want to withdraw for a few hours.
Let’s not go back to “the past”, but think and form a vision of an even better anchored combination of working from home / being present at the office. I’m in favor, what about you?
Author: Erdinç Saçan