Many people have dreams of escaping the office cubicle. We dream of being able to work from home. And to escape the daily commute, whether it’s by driving or public transport. We dream of days where we can walk to our home office in the other room instead of squeezing with the crowd for a 1-hour journey to the office.
And our dreams probably just came true.
Majority of office workers now find that they have to work remotely. But is it living up to expectations? Is it something that you would want to do long term?
Is there greater autonomy?
Now you won’t have to feel that your boss is constantly breathing down your neck. You have greater autonomy in choosing how you do your work. But is that really the case?
Or the physical distance is making your boss(es) so insecure that they have to check in with you every now and then to make sure that you are working?
Is there more free time?
You thought that not having to commute will save you 2 hours a day. And 2 hours is a long time for you to do something else. Like spending time with your family. Or reading the book that you’ve wanted to read. Or even practising your musical instrument more.
But with the erosion of any remaining work-life boundaries, many found that they are actually working longer instead. The always-on work culture became more prevalent. Especially now when you seemingly can’t do much other than being stuck at home, which means you technically can be connected to the Internet and work all the time.
Is there enough social interaction?
And then there’s the social interaction that we are all missing. Yes, technology has made it better. You can talk to others over video calls or just regular calls. But there is something about face-to-face interactions that can’t be replaced no matter how good video conferencing technology is.
I’m sure you have experienced the awkwardness of video calls when you are just waiting to see who is going to be talking next. You know that when 2 or more people start talking at the same time over a video call, you can’t make out what either is saying. Side conversations within the group are something that you can’t have over video calls. Even though there might be the breakout room function, it’s not quite the same.
Is there better equality?
We also know that remote work worsens inequalities in societies around the world. To be able to work remotely at home means that your job is still somewhat intact. You can’t wait to get back to the office.
But there are others who can’t wait for this nightmare to end so that they can find a job to replace the one they’ve just lost. Many jobs have to be done in-person. Not everything can be done remotely. And perhaps some of us might be part of the lucky few who could do our jobs remotely.
Working from home indeed does have its benefits. Especially for those of us who prefer to work in solitude. We just get drained by constant meetings and social interaction throughout the day.
However, no matter how much of an introvert we are, there is still a need to get out there to interact with others. It is only by working together with others that we can all produce better quality work.
As we look forward to the easing of restrictions over the next couple of months, perhaps we need to find a balance between the two extremes. Maybe there’s a need to partly work from home, and partly be physically present at the workplace.
How to find that balance is perhaps something for us to think about right now.