Working from home: is this our ‘new normal’?

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Written by Laura Ferguson 

Week seven of lockdown and we are starting to feel the strain of working from our living rooms. This remote working routine has perhaps been going on even longer for some, and it is taking its toll. But should it be? Should we be grateful to have the opportunity to work from the comfort of our homes?

Not necessarily, and not everyone will be experiencing that sigh of relief when the alarm goes off at 7am and they remember they only have to commute to the kitchen.

When speaking to friends and family, the reviews of this ‘new normal’ are undoubtedly mixed. It is undeniable that the Covid-19 crisis has changed the professional world irrevocably; but has it changed it permanently?

 

The challenges of remote working

So what are the challenges of moving the office to the kitchen? Those with children will have anecdotally described interruptions during important meetings, requests for biscuits during zoom calls with clients, and persistent questioning during the email-responding. However, once schools are back to normal, we should regain the quiet and order of our homes and therefore the ability to concentrate and work productively – in theory.

Your ability to concentrate will also depend on the practical elements of your working environment, proven by the discovery of many that the comfortable office chair and the double screen that you take for granted, are in fact essential items.

Whilst many businesses have facilitated a smooth transition from the office to the home, it remains difficult for many to create a working environment that lends itself to sustainable productivity. Moreover, many have admitted to working longer hours as a consequence of the blurred line between work and home life, feeling unable to switch off. And whilst Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been vital tools for businesses during this period, many do not envisage a future without face-to-face meetings.

 

The benefits of working from home

Despite the obvious challenges, many home-workers have expressed their satisfaction with this new set of circumstances. Now that the daily slog into the city is a distant memory, people have replaced the hour commute on the tube with an hour of reading, the 45-minute car journey with 45 minutes of exercise, and the brisk walk through town with meditation.

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Likewise, some friends have described feeling more relaxed and less anxious about work; with more autonomy and greater flexibility, office workers often feel more motivated throughout the day. Let’s also not forget, of course, that loungewear and pajamas have become the new must-haves of the office-wear wardrobe.

 

What does the future look like?

So what does the future look like? There is no clear answer; although many businesses have continued ‘business as usual’, others have been obligated to furlough its workers or even close the doors for good.

What is clear is that this crisis has propelled the long-debated subject of work-life-balance into the forefront of company agendas, which can only be a positive thing. What I believe many would propose is the opportunity to exercise a degree of flexibility when structuring your working week, within the limits of the organization you work for. For some this may involve the option to work from home, for others it may be the office itself that they need to keep them motivated.

 

Featured image: © Freddie Marriage

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