Happy 8 Week Lockdown Everyone.
It has been a bizarre few months in the UK, and I think it is fair to say a lot of us may be losing our minds slightly.
My partner and I have been fortunate enough to be still working full time and have remained on full pay. Many people, including my friends and family, have been furloughed or sadly made redundant. So we are not complaining.
The company I currently work for have been able to provide all their staff with laptops and mobiles for everyone at the head office to work from home. I’ve been fortunate enough, in previous jobs, to be able to work from home a few days a week. Therefore, I was looking forward to working from home. There is no need to factor in commute times, traffic jams or office mishaps (forgetting your lunch, fire alarms). I would have the ability to work throughout the day, but also get things done around the house: dusting, sweeping, laundry or a spot of gardening. We had also just adopted our new puppy Rio, which meant more time to play with, socialise and train the new bundle of joy.
I was also pretty excited to see how businesses would cope with not being in an office. I love new technology, and I enjoy seeing how different companies implement it to become more advanced. For instance, I’m not sure how many industries have already used applications such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. It is fair to say that Zoom was not the norm at our office. Yes, we used video conferencing and conference calls. However, setting up a Zoom meeting wasn’t something I had done since working there. So, how would businesses that have never really used these types of applications cope?
It’s not just businesses that have had to adapt though is it. Think of your Mum or Uncle who doesn’t have a smartphone, or if they do, they wouldn’t know how to turn the camera on or even accept a video call. Well, that’s the case with mine anyway. I forever have to say ‘Mum, I can hear you stop shouting’ or ‘you do know all I can see if your forehead’. I appreciate a lot of people these days are more technologically savvy. However, there is still a percentage of the population that find it difficult to use, let alone master technology and its benefits. I’ve seen that Facebook has released its video calling gadget that has a smart camera which moves with you. No more forehead chat! Products like this make me happy. They make technology easier for those that find it frustrating.
Working from home can create incredible flexibility. Individuals who have children, or have long commutes, or have disabilities that make travelling regularly more challenging may benefit from having such flexibility. I can imagine for a variety of people the ability to work from home is exceptionally appealing. I can also see so many benefits for businesses. Not having to incur the costs of running a physical office including; employing staff to maintain the office, utility bills and rent or mortgage payments.
However, there is always a flip side to everything. For every positive, there is usually a negative. I have had plenty of conversations with people in managerial roles, where they have large teams to manage, who find being in an office beneficial for many reasons. You’re able to keep track of who is and who isn’t in the office, response times can be quicker if you can speak to them face to face (rather than waiting for an email or phone call back). There is also the element of structure and routine. For many people physically going to work creates a critical routine that helps them manage their time and productivity.
Socialising at work can also be vital for lots of people, especially those who don’t have a particularly significant network of friends or family. I personally prefer to sit at my desk and ‘crack on’ with my work as, I have to admit, I’m not very sociable at work. I’d rather socialise outside of work.
And although there may be cost reductions for businesses, due to not having a physical office, there could also be new cost implications. Presumably, lots of companies would need to make investments into technology to support their staff and to allow for their work to become more virtual.
I’m sure there are plenty of advantages and pitfalls to working from home being implemented as a new normal. I’m also sure that plenty of people are embracing and enjoying using technology in a way they may not have done before.
One of the questions I’ve been asking myself, even before lockdown officially came into effect, is can there be a new normal, will technology create a new way of working and living? Will, we no longer be restricted to working in an office, can people live outside of the City and still earn their desired salary? I think although a lot of businesses embraced the changes, they may not wish for this to be their new normal.
However, looking at working from home for employees, I’m sure the novelty has worn off. I feel as though the phrases ‘you’re on mute’, ‘does anyone know if *Bob is joining’ or ‘you’ve frozen *Jess’ have started to run my life.
And having a puppy running around, barking for attention, while trying to take minutes has become increasingly frustrating. I’ve also, annoyingly, become more and more aware of how much rubbish I seem to accumulate in a day. My ability to stay away from the fridge and food cupboard has also diminished.
Although I am beginning to feel some downsides to working at home, full time, I am still enjoying the flexibility it has given me. I can start work earlier and not have to worry about being late or getting home at an ungodly time due to traffic or public transport dilemmas.
I’d love to see businesses allow their employees more flexibility in the way they are required to work. I think this could help a lot of people financially and geographically. It will be interesting to see how the economy will recover and potentially change for the future.
I hope everyone is staying safe and as sane as they can. I’d be intrigued to know anyone’s thoughts on the current situation, how your managing with working from home or what you think the new normal may be.