Normalising ‘working from home’ will be the death of society – Sydney Morning Herald - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Normalising ‘working from home’ will be the death of society – Sydney Morning Herald

Of course, it’s not just about interactions with co-workers – it’s also the people you see on the train, the flirtation with your barista, the friends you might meet on your break. Life in the public realm.

There is a cold utilitarianism behind this idea that we can all save time and money by having people stay home and Zoom in to meetings. What corporations might save on floor space and desks and upgrades, the rest of us will lose in the death of society as we know it.

Let’s also remember that the “flexibility” of working from home is also a clever way for employers to blur the boundaries between their time and your time, and further erode your leisure hours.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the companies leading the charge for permanent home-work are places such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter: tech titans who tried to make offices “cool” with bean bags and snacks.

Furnishing the office with the joys of home is fine, but making our homes the new office is a step away from throwing your hands in the air and admitting: “I am never not at work.”

Journalist-turned-teacher Lucy Kellaway wrote in the Financial Times last week that among its many virtues, “the office helps keep us sane”. “First, it imposes routine, without which most of us fall to pieces. Even better, it creates a barrier between work and home … better still, we escape from our usual selves.”

Going into the office means you change your scenery, your outfit, your audience and, yes, yourself. And I think that’s great. Monotony should not be encouraged by corporations or the state.

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Workplace flexibility suits a lot of jobs and a lot of people. I enjoy a bit of it myself, and I’m not against the concept if used judiciously. But when we think about the norms we want to set for ourselves, I don’t think we should let the home become the default workspace.

We should be very reluctant to unwind structures that encourage and indeed compel people to participate in society, even if it’s the seemingly dull routine of 9-5 life.

Let’s resist the instinct of the technological evangelists to lock us up inside forever with nothing but the internet to bring us together. Returning to the office must be done safely but it should, at some stage, be done.



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