Why I’d be happy to work from home post-pandemic, and I’m not alone

 


Anxiety gnaws at me each time I check my work email. I dread a message from the human resources department announcing that it’s time for staff to return full-time to the office. I’ve not been there for several months and have grown used to doing my job 

from home

. If given the choice, even after Covid-19 has been tamed, I want to continue doing this.

I know I’m not alone; surveys are done since governments and companies 
began
 introducing work-from-home arrangements have shown that a majority prefer the idea or believe there should be flexibility. German labor minister Hubertus Heil even wants to make it a legal right for his country’s workers.
The safety of home in the midst of continuing uncertainty about the pandemic is a major factor for many; it means avoiding the health risks of the daily 
public transport
 commute and confined spaces like lifts, office kitchens, toilets, and other shared spaces. But those are not my concerns, not when wearing a face mask, keeping hands clean, staying healthy, and avoiding crowded places are proven ways to avoid the disease.

I’m more guided by self-interest: ensuring a better work-life balance; extra hours every day because I no longer have to travel to and from work; flexibility for exercise; cheaper and greater lunch options; and dressing more casually for work. In keeping with what a survey in Australia by the productivity consultancy Building 20 found, I believe I am as productive or even more so working from home than in the office.

Work is done, meetings are held and ideas are shared through video, text messages, and email. I can’t comment on a survey of 1,500 German workers by the interactive presentation platform Mentimeter that found 13 percent of respondents did not turn on their video cameras during meetings because they were naked or partially clothed or that 42 percent said that what they missed least about working in the office was their colleagues.

My quibbles are that sometimes the technology is not as it should be and that I’m expected to pay for the electricity, internet connection and printer ink and paper I use.

But working from home is not for everyone. Some are not of a mature enough disposition or sufficiently experienced to work independently. There are those who can’t get the balance right and are devoting too many hours to their job; the concept of home and office is one and the same can be difficult to grasp.

Others working from 
small flats
 feel hemmed in, or find family members distracting. Furthermore, in Hong Kong, noisy renovation work upstairs, downstairs or next door is always problematic. This can lead to stress and, for these workers, the office is a necessity. That is where flexibility comes in.

The problem is finding a boss willing to accept such an arrangement. A few firms are open to the idea; Google has told employees they can work from home if they like until at least the middle of next year. Some have already noticed the benefits, the main one being not needing as much office space. It’s possible with the media company I work for, as all that journalists need to do their job is a laptop, a stable internet connection, and software.

Of course, every firm and industry operates differently, so what works for one is not necessarily a formula for another. But trust need not be an issue as it can readily be dealt with by measuring and managing work by output. Performance should be about ideas, innovation and service rendered, not hours sitting at a desk.

Covid-19 has changed the way we think about work. Many companies have found that staff can work from home with as much efficiency and effectiveness as in an office. It’s not for everyone, but it is to be hoped that firms offer employees the choice of in-office or remote work. It could well make families and society stronger, workers happier, and companies more profitable.