Pre covid, WFH was a bit of a novelty. We had a max once a fortnight policy, and this worked perfectly. The night before the chosen WFH day had a bit of a Friday night feeling – maybe you’d have an extra glass of wine or watch an extra episode of whatever series you were currently binging.
But of course, 2020 flexed its muscles and working life as we knew it changed overnight. At the height of the pandemic around 60% of the UK workforce were working from home, turning bedrooms into offices, calling in via Zoom in pyjama bottoms, and frantically muting themselves when friends and family walked in.
And it looks like the WFH life isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. When FaceBook and Twitter announced back in May that they would allow their employees to work remotely forever, the tech giants and two of the biggest companies in the world sent out a clear message – remote work is here to stay. Even in a post-pandemic world whenever that may be, the relative ease in which many companies have found the transition to remote work has opened a Pandora’s box and created as many questions as it answered. Are offices an unnecessary expense? Do employees need to commute? Can you hire from abroad? Do you need to be paying extortionate London rent?
The repercussions of WFH life, from mental health to the property market, to the make-up of cities and the movement of the world’s workforce is just one of the many ways in which Coronavirus will change the world as we know it.
But on a day to day basis, is it better or worse to work from home or from the office? Everyone will have a different opinion based on a set of different circumstances. But after 4 months, here are my 3 pros and 4 cons of WFH life (the unbalanced list gives an early clue as to which way I’m swaying)…
- The (lack of) noise
The quiet is something I noticed within the first 5 minutes of sitting down to my home office in mid march. Where was the office buzz that ran through the room? Where were the chats by the coffee machine about what you got up to at the weekend and what you were having for dinner? A long discussion about where to go for lunch? Slack and Zoom go a long way. But there’s nothing quite like inane office chatter to lift you up on a rainy Monday morning or to offset a stressful day.
2. The (lack of) Variety (get it)
Variety is the spice of life. An old saying that I have only recently discovered the true meaning of. Something as simple as switching rooms for a meeting or running into someone you haven’t seen in a while is something you don’t experience in your home office. And when your kitchen table doubles up as your office desk and your dining table and cabin fever sets in at 4 o clock on a Wednesday afternoon on the 93rd day of home work… a bit of variety would go a very long way indeed.
3. The commute
2020 has been a weird one – but admitting that I actually miss my commute is probably one of the weirdest things to have come out of it for me. Standing at a station in the cold twice a day was not something I enjoyed. But when the commute is about 90 seconds from your bed to your desk, the separation between work and home life becomes blurred… and I realise that my commute really wasn’t so bad. The commute was a time to switch off – read a few chapters, listen to a podcast, or scroll aimlessly through instagram. Whatever your jam, it was a nice buffer between work and home.
Whether it be traipsing the high street in search of the best meal deal (Sainos, Co-op and Tesco’s, in that order), navigating the politics of the microwave (if you put your leftovers in the queue but then amble away, does that mean you forfeit your spot?) or the long debate as to where we should go for Friday lunch – Nandos for the third time in a row (think of the fino pitta), Frano Manca or the £5 Thai at the local pub. Lunch at home involves a lot less waiting around for the sacred microwave, but is a lot quieter, a lot less fun, and is lacking many a meal deal.
But WFH is not all bad. Here are 3 of my biggest pros of that remote working life…
- You can work from anywhere
Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean what it says on the tin. Theoretically, there is nothing to stop you from renting an Airbnb in Norfolk, Rome or Timbuktu (travel and wifi restrictions permitting) and spending the rest of the year basking in the sun. The Barbadian government recently announced they were offering a year long ‘remote work’ visa, which I instantly checked out (sadly I did not meet the requirements). But the concept holds – the flexibility that enforced home work has given us has allowed the option to leave extortionate rental contracts and spend time with family, visit different areas of the country or explore new countries altogether- all without compromising work.
2. Save money
No commute. No Friday lunch, drinks after work, meal deals or coffees at the station. Work from home might have taken away many enjoyable aspects of work life, but it has also saved a hell of a lot of $$$ by doing so. Would love to say that I’m putting all those cancelled underground trips into a savings account… but my Amazon account begs to differ.
Yep, it’s a simple one. But coronavirus has elevated life’s simple pleasures to new and dizzying heights. And setting one’s alarm to 08:40 am, guilt-free, is one of these new simple pleasures. Snooze away.
So what is the future of the office? For most, probably a hybrid model of home and office life. Even when we do get a vaccine and are no longer at the mercy of the threat of a second wave, the pandemic has shone a bright light on the subject of remote work. It is evident that a physical presence in the office is not a necessity for many companies, and for some this will be all the encouragement they need to wave goodbye to the office forever.
Working from home is a perfectly viable option, and should be treated as such in the future for those who want or need it. The future of the workspace has been forced to evolve quickly this year – and has proved that despite the social cost, technology has enabled us to adapt the way we work for good. WFH is not all bad. But for myself and many others, the lack of social interaction in its many forms – from lunch to coffee machine chats, are sorely missed. There are some things that technology cannot replace, no matter how many virtual office updates Microsoft pioneers – complaints about the office temperature and microwave queues being just a couple.