The pandemic has just shown us the the future of work
As the coronavirus forces workers inside their homes, office buildings across the world are now shells of their former selves. And while life will hopefully return to normal within a few months, our relationship to work might change irreversibly. This period of forced confinement has given everyone a taste of what can possibly become the new normal. It is thus natural to ask yourself this: are we entering the golden age of working from home?
The logic of remote work is plain for everyone to see. Firstly, the idea of everyone coming to a central location and logging in the hours under the watchful eye of the boss is more appropriate for manufacturing, than for the knowledge work most people are engaged in today. Secondly, a combination of factors such lengthening commute times, cheap technology and skyrocketing rents is making the concept of a full-fledged office look increasingly ridiculous. Still, most organizations continue to persist on this path. Why?
This question can be answered in two words: trust and laziness. Firstly, many leaders still do not trust their subordinates enough to allow them out of their sight. Others feel the need to validate their power by demanding the physical presence of their people. Then there are those who are more trusting and generous, but cannot bring themselves to change the status quo. As a result, many millions continue with the charade known as ‘going to work’, at the expense of not only their own health and mental well-being, but also the environment.
Now that most people have gotten a taste of what it feels like to work in their pajamas, it is time to drive the nail in further. So if you are not in the restaurant, airline or any other industry where your well-groomed self is essential for business, here are six reasons why working from home is the future we should all embrace.
1. You will get more done
In most organizations people have no idea how their work matters in the grand scheme of things. To compensate for this lack of direction, they have no choice but to jump headlong into endless cycles of ppt making, meetings, emails and phone calls. This approach not only provides them a measure of purpose, but also serves as a reliable proxy for actual work.
Going remote means all of these shenanigans go out of the window. Meaningless discussions, the much dreaded ‘catch ups’ and other assorted time wasters will lose their potency once there is no one around to fool or impress. ‘Get your work done and move on with your life’ might very well become the slogan of this post-workplace era.
2. You will be happier
Much of the dissatisfaction associated with work comes from the feeling of being trapped. Like there’s nothing more to your life than the work you’re doing. Even if the work itself is engaging, the storm of undesirable activities around it is enough to sap one’s energy and weaken the will to live.
Going remote can change that by freeing up your time for leisure, pursuing hobbies or even starting side hustles. Further, since you will now be paid also in terms of free time, you might start feeling better about the pittance you otherwise receive. Looks like win-win to me.
3. Office politics might become less potent
Most of the politics we see in a workplace is simply a result of having a lot of people under the same roof. Men and women, if you remember your textbooks, are social animals. Put even two of them together and you’ll see their behaviors change instantly. No wonder the modern office is alive with competing motivations, convenient alliances, and actions that have only signaling value.
If remote working becomes the norm, it is not unreasonable to accept that all the favoritism, backbiting and one-upmanship might lose their force. These behaviours depend on, and are amplified by proximity to other people. But when you can see everyone else only through a low-resolution Skype call, the Machiavellian maneuvers just aren’t that deadly.
4. Merit might rule again
Ideally speaking, people in a workplace should be judged only by the results they achieve. The glut of performance measurement metrics that most organizations inflict on their employees is proof of how important that concept is deemed to be. However, anyone who’s worked for any length of time knows that these metrics have many features, but objectivity is hardly one of them.
The hard reality is this: it is not what you do that matters, but what others think of what you do. In one word: perception. And as even small children understand, likeability (i.e. positive perception) is the first step towards getting what you want. But while forming perceptions is a basic human tendency, it might lead to sub-optimal results at the workplace.
So once the concept of the traditional workspace begins to crumble, we might see meritocracy making a comeback. As in the previous point, physical distance might put an end to interpersonal behaviours that prevent merit from floating to the top. As many a freelancer will tell you, only your work will count, not your charm.
5. Your loved ones will thank you
A regular workday for most people is like a Russian doll: the actual work is buried deep within layers upon layers of time-wasting activities such as commuting, long lunches and web surfing. Time, that you could have otherwise spent on people and things that matter.
Wouldn’t you be happier if can use that time to take care of your child or elderly parents and still do your job well? Happier employees = Better employees. But if your family is a dysfunctional bunch of loons, then by all means get away as fast as you can…
6. You will be more than the work you do
When you spend a large part of your waking hours doing a single thing, it’s obvious that you will end up being defined by that one thing. That is why most of us derive our identities from our day jobs. Nothing wrong with that, except that it’s a terrible waste considering what a marvel human beings are.
‘I am vast, I contain multitudes’, said Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets. This quote gets to the heart of what we all intuitively know deep within: that we are more than just one person. We might be playing a specific role right now in life, but our desires, aspirations and interests do not know these boundaries and spread far beyond them.
Simply put, we must not allow our day jobs the monopoly on defining who we are. By moving towards a decentralized work model, we could take the first step in that direction. In the end, it is not just about saving time or becoming more productive. It’s about reclaiming your life and letting it bloom.