How Working From Home Is Working Out (or Not) – The New York Times - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

How Working From Home Is Working Out (or Not) – The New York Times

To the Editor:

As attractive as it may seem to work from home, making it the norm would be corrosive to society. Loneliness is a largely unseen epidemic in America.

The office, as annoying and banal as it can be, provides an ecosystem in which to forge friendships and engender camaraderie, teamwork and brainstorming.

Office rituals — small talk in the kitchenette, drinks after work — exist for good reason. They elevate the spirit; dare I say, they make people feel included, and loved. Meaningful bonds just cannot be made over Zoom.

Inevitably, those who work from home will engage with fewer people, for less time, and interactions will be planned around a specific purpose, and not casual or serendipitous.

The old ways no longer work; corporations must be more flexible. Instead of eliminating office life, we should rethink it. Instead of imposing industrial age hours, enable workers to craft a schedule around what works for them.

We have it in our power to remake the corporate status quo — maintaining the cross-pollination of ideas inherent to office culture, while making the reality of work more accommodating and kinder.

Daniel Dolgicer
New York

To the Editor:

I was that college and law student who always went to the library to work so the rest of my time would be mine. Working in offices for the past 30-plus years provided that same bright-line separation between work and the rest of life.

Now I have for the first time entered the new work-from-home culture. While I must concede that productive work can be accomplished, I still hope for the return to the office tower. No longer do I walk out of my Manhattan office and physically separate from work. Time itself has lost that divider.

David Kasdan
Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Telecommuting is a wonderful solution to improving quality of life as well as the environment.

I telecommuted for over 10 years until my retirement. Working at home eliminated the stress of daily commuting. I had the flexibility to attend more meetings, even with remote locations in Europe and Asia. I could handle chores and other interruptions during the daytime and make the lost time up in the evening. Occasionally I went on-site for meetings, brainstorms and informal socializing.

My former employer Sun Microsystems encouraged people to work at home, and provided equipment and furniture. It lowered office costs and improved productivity. In a quick survey of 100 or so former co-workers, almost all preferred working from home.

If more companies allow working remotely, traffic will thin out, employees will be less stressed out and air pollution will be reduced.

John Stearns
Mountain View, Calif.

To the Editor:

Ladies: Don’t let the world tell you that you can’t have it all. You, too, can work from home while juggling new offspring, 24/7 marriages, remote family and male-dominated work environments.

You can attend faculty meetings while breastfeeding, give the diabetic dog insulin shots while shoveling in your breakfast, craft rebuttals as to why in-person classes aren’t safe while reappointing your guest room into a teaching studio, and move your voice classes to the backyard during baby’s naps to vie with neighborhood lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

You can cram it all in during your sleepless nights while you declutter your house, worry about your loved ones and stress about your future. Who says women can’t have it all?

Kate Brennan
Oklahoma City
The writer is an associate professor of voice and acting at Oklahoma City University and artistic director of Ignition Arts.

To the Editor:

We are increasingly hearing about the benefits of working from home, both for employees and employers as they contemplate the post-pandemic environment. Leaving aside the critical issue of who is able to work remotely and who isn’t, this is fraught with downside risks and unintended consequences.

As a cautionary tale, I would look at the not-so-distant past when the gig economy was starting to emerge and be highly touted. There was a lot of gushy talk about it then: how it was a liberating choice opening up vistas of freedom and financial reward rather than the insecure, grueling, low-wage, no-benefits slog that it too frequently is.

Be careful what you ask for. Or, at least, be skeptical of the buzz.

Steven Berkowitz
New York
The writer is a retired human resources executive.

To the Editor:

Work as we know it is not only changing — it’s changed.

The business model that followed World War II and the Korean War, portrayed in the movie “The Apartment” (1960) and on the “Mad Men” television series, has been replaced. And working for one company from cradle to grave is no longer the norm.

Millennials have become entrepreneurs, and like nomads they move from one situation to the next, hoping that stability and success will arrive at some point.

And in some companies reporting to a fixed workplace began to be seen as, well, counterproductive. That human space could be replaced with servers, or inventory or maybe manufacturing equipment.

But when management sat down to evaluate letting people work from home, it was basically seen as losing control over the work force. What was allowed was more the exception rather than the rule. And then Covid-19 arrived and rearranged the deck chairs on the corporate ships of state.

While reporting to fixed work spaces has its value, this may be the time to finally write the book on when and just how to allow working from home. In this regard let’s consider a perceptive comment from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

E. Bernard McGlynn Jr.
Summit, N.J.
The writer has worked in the finance and insurance sector for 50 years.

To the Editor:

Working from home was novel, convenient and obviously safer than going into the office by train during rush hour. It was fun at first, but after two months it now wears more than a little thin.

I miss the stimulus of seeing and talking to people — in the flesh. I miss the fabled water cooler conversations, the casual connections in the corridors, lunches, and the ease and flexibility of getting together. And even the trains: I miss my train friends, the casual acquaintances that cemented over the years.

Unbelievably, I miss my shirts and ties and suits, none of which are really needed at home. What day of the week is it? Sloth is a creeping enemy!

Anthony Sweeney
Darien, Conn.
The writer, a chemist, is a consultant in the energy, steel and mining industries.

To the Editor:

For me, working from home is not the best. I’ve 300 square feet to call my home, a tiny studio situated such that I can hear my neighbors’ noises morning, noon and night — parties, conversations, music, arguments, chatter, howling laughter.

It is hard to concentrate on critical work projects and virtual meetings, and to be shut between the same four walls 24/7, day after day, week after week, sorely tries one’s patience, comfort and endurance.

For these reasons and many more, including the chance to see my colleagues’ faces and hear their laughter and share impromptu ideas, I crave heading out to the office, to separate work from play, and to concentrate on work issues and tasks elsewhere.

Fiona Bayly
New York
The writer is an administrative assistant at the American Museum of Natural History.

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