Social media is literally ablaze with heated discussions about a wide variety of workers’ rights issues: pay inequity, workplace toxicity, exploitation, unionization efforts, and working from home. On the last one, with Covid’s impact slowly waning, employers are starting to ask people to come back to the offices, and many folks have grown more than accustomed to working from home, to the point where everyone is questioning whether working from home should still be considered a privilege or a new standard that industries and employers should guarantee. As someone who commuted more than 2 hours a day for decades, working from home will always have a special place in my heart, but it does come with some serious downsides that everyone should consider.
I’m speaking as an employer and an employee
Of course, I’m biased – everyone is, and I’m particularly biased because I’m a business owner and an employer. Our entire business is virtual – we’ve been “working from home” from day one, years before Covid was anything more than an exotic, unknown virus. Going back to the office isn’t something we need to worry about at C2, but that’s actually not the part to which I want to draw your attention. What I’ve observed over the years as a both a professional and as a consultant, is that our work life balance hasn’t become better as technology enables us to work anywhere at any time, it’s actually done the exact opposite: work permeates everything we do now, especially since the advent of smartphones and the internet. And while it can be said that personal life also permeates work, I think you all will agree with me that it’s nowhere near the same level as work crossing over into personal, and for many traditional employers taking personal time during scheduled work hours is only tolerable in small amounts. Of the many professionals I speak with on a regular basis who work from home (either full time or on some sort of mixed schedule), most acknowledge that they work “all the time,” and yes, while many are able to mix in personal time with work time to give them more flexibility in their day, work-life balance ends up tilting drastically towards work for most of them because of how easy (and profitable) it is to be working.
Also keep in mind, when white-collar workers extend their business hours, the industries and services that support them must also extend their hours, and many of those folks can’t work from home nor enjoy “flex time” because the very nature of their jobs just don’t allow for it. Remember when we “celebrated” the working “heroes” who couldn’t stay home during the pandemic because they were “essential”? We seem to be back to denigrating them for not wanting work minimum wage jobs, long hours with no health care or retirement benefits. There’s a reason why unionization efforts are suddenly making headlines.
The real question we should be asking ourselves is this: just because we have the technology that enables us to work anywhere at any time, does it absolve us from continuing our quest to work smarter not harder? We seem to be growing in the opposite, and possibly wrong, direction. It’s definitely not healthy, and it doesn’t really seem to be closing that gap with the 1% – in fact that gap continues to widen despite our increased efforts. It’s not that nobody wants to work. We are all working too much and despite the extra effort, we seem to be backsliding both economically and culturally.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay