People keep asking me how we will be able to keep working from home now vaccines are rolling out. Working from home has helped a lot of Australian workers. We’ve seen the productivity benefits talked about in the news. Years’ worth of guilt and concerns re: workplace flexibility melt away in 2020.
People managing disability, mental health or are non-neurotypical feel far more included in a COVID working world. Many families aren’t missing the rush to school or to finish work in school hours. Despite having to home school kids and find a new normal with working partners, it feels more flexible. And even the somewhat grounded digital nomads are finding there’s a tiny joy in local travel at home or overseas.
Gone are the days of freelancers dragging their butts into offices for a meeting. Or at all. Or cross town for a coffee. Nobody is asking about surveillance when you suggest working from home. This has improved the ability to win work, do the work, and feel better while doing it.
There’s something to be said for maintaining the normalisation of working from home. Yet as COVID-19 recedes and vaccines begin their roll out, the presenteeism culture looms. We’re already seeing more and more opportunities listing an expectation of working in-house. This is across full time, part time, contract and project-based work.
This is a unique challenge that both freelancers and those who want to stay full time employed face. We will lose these gains to complacency if we’re not careful.
Working from home became the new normal because we had little choice. It was not worth the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. As the threat recedes, a return to form will push working from home back into the shadows. We haven’t experienced the new order long enough. Big business will want to revert to what is familiar.
Compassion plays a huge role in situations like this.
You can’t move forward until you recognise that business felt like its hand was forced. And that leadership may have faced a lot of problems, costs and sleepless nights to provide a working from home environment.
A lot of companies hurt a lot to do the pivot they did to accommodate their workforce and adopt the working from home model. Instead of punishing them for wanting to go back to what made them comfortable, there needs to be a little compassion and empathy here.
This leads us to quibble over leadership, approach, the finer detail and a whole bunch of other stuff that distracts us from making a difference. Take freelancers for example. We’re so caught up in whether we should call ourselves freelancer, we miss opportunities to come together as a community on a regular basis. Who cares about minutiae when you’ve got real problems?
Mature movements recognise that you will never get to the nirvana of perfection or fitting all voices 100% of the time. That variance in opinion and nuance can be a good thing. Problems that unify a broad spectrum of people are big enough to get politicians and power brokers noticing. It demonstrates the web developers agree with the writers and the account managers. Even though there is a variation of why that agreement exists.
Reaching other audiences makes it a lot easier to campaign for a sustainable new workplace normal.
This might include:
· Getting buy in from working parents. Or associated support groups including grandparents who often supply after school care
· Appealing to often excluded groups such the disability community, people with mental health conditions and so on
· Getting in touch with professional bodies and unions to appeal to their membership about working from home benefits
If you want to make a change on a societal-scale, it’s important to recognise you are doing something that is bigger than you or your ego. And that is truly amazing, but requires many hands to make light work.
Next, we take a look at how to identify what you want from working from home and how to persuade the decision-makers (i.e. bosses, legislators, clients and structures) that the idea benefits them in the long term, too.