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Working from home

May 13th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Technology/Work · No Comments · Life, Technology, Work

For the last few months, like anybody else who is able to, I have been working from home. It hasn’t actually been a massive adjustment because I had only just got used to being back in the office full-time after either being on post-operrative sick leave or because of an immune system suppressed through chemotherapy self-isolating before it became fashionable.

The difference is that I had previously been working from home a lot, but popping into work every now and then even if only for the important meetings. It is only a 5-minute walk into work so perfectly feasible to go in for just an hour or evne just 5 minutes to pick something up. It turns out that the difference between being at home 95% of the time and 100% of the time feels like a lot more than 5%

Because I have a vulnerable status and because my employers seem to take a more hands-on approach to my welfare than the government, I was effectivelty banned from the workplace even before the lockdown came into force. Technically and physically I have been well-prepared. I have a proper workspace with a proper chair. I have a proper large monitor for the work laptop and a decent keyboard and mouse. I even have some cat-6 cable run through from the router so I don’t have to rely on wifi. Most importantly I have a door I can close. I am probably more DSE-compliant than some people are in their official workplace.

On top of that, I do not have children still around so no interruptions or home-schooling requirements. Jayne is at home, on furlough, but keeps herself busy with World of Warcraft, Netflix or expeditions to the supermarket while I am at work.

Despite all that it still gets a bit lonely. I was surprised how much I have missed having contact with colleagues because I have always considered myself to be a miserable, anti-social so-and-so.

There have been phone calls and some video conferences, which have made me realise how lucky I am when I see that colleagues are having to work on a laptop at the kitchen table, sitting on a hard kitchen chair and with distractions like hoovering and kids.

All of which brings me to the point.

There is talk of how this is all going to lead to more working from home in the long term. I’m sure that is true, but it is not going to mean that lots of people will do it full-time, or even want to. Even with my nearly ideal circumstances I feel that it is good to be able to work from home, but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, I can only imagine what it is like for anybody in a small flat, especially if they are flat-sharing with others who also need to work. As for kids, I may not have any here but they still disrupt video calls I am on.

One advantage I am not getting is the extra time saved by not commuting, because I don’t have much of a commute anyway. I can see how those who have enjoyed a break from spending a couple of hours each day in traffic or on trains would find it hard to go back to all that.

I find myself wondering whether our current model of having thousands of people travel into London every day is going to change a lot. That does not necessarily mean everybody working from home, because that just isn’t feasible with the current housing situation. It might mean that companies will move away from big HQ buildings with 10,000 people in them and have more satellite sites outside the big cites, maybe even outside the South East. Apart from anything, those big HQs will not fit everybody in if they have to put the desks further apart.

It could even be an opportunity for places like Crawley to attract some of those companies. With the big hit we are going to take due to the massive impacts on aviation and retail, which are two of the large employment sources here, we need to diversify a bit. Apart from anything, a lot of those who are travelling in to London every morning are travelling from here. I’m sure they would happily swap a one hour each way commute (on a very good day) with a £5000 a year cost, for a journey they could make by bike or on foot, or on a local bus.

If I was one of those companies that are managing or building large office blocks on Manor Royal or the town centre I reckon I would be starting to knock on a few doors of big London-based companies (or government departments or NGOs) now, to offer them space at a fraction of what they are paying in the city or in Docklands.

Some people might be looking at the office space we have here, thinking that it is a white elephant that will rendered obsolete by home working, but it could instead become a lifeline for a town that is otherwise over-dependent on a troubled industry if we can market it properly as an alternative to class-action suits from homeworkers crippled by spending 8 hours a day on non-compliant kitchen chairs!

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