The lockdowns of 2020 proved that technologies like the NBN, mobile broadband, video calls and corporate chat apps could enable many office workers to do their job from home but now in early 2021 many Australian workers are disappointed that their managers are forcing them back to commute to work at their old pre-Covid office location.
Telstra CEO Andy Penn said recently at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia event:
“How we work, how we travel and how we live generally will not look and feel the same as it did 12 months ago. It is, therefore, better to spend our energy in accepting the changes that need to come”.
Penn explained that Telstra was being quite forward thinking about the issue, and was considering being “location agnostic” for white collar workers in offices and call centres.
He noted though that there are challenges to working from home which must be considered and understood by staff and their managers.
“We need to understand the parenting and educating burden still often falls to women and support them with the flexibility they need to juggle their work and home lives”.
Some other company leaders have realised that letting many of their staff work from home saves a lot on office leasing costs and there are other benefits as well, which Worley CEO Chris Ashton mentioned said at a conference last year:
“If you disconnect the need for geographic proximity to a role … we open up our ability to access talent around the world that possibly we couldn’t have accessed before, and that’s a really powerful opportunity for us.”
Yes, we acknowledge that it’s true some people can’t work from home effectively for perfectly reasonable reasons like:
- their home is too small for them and their partner to both work from home at the same time
- they don’t have any space in their home with space to set up a WHS compliant work area
- their family make too much noise to allow concentrating on work
- they don’t have reliable fixed line internet access at home
- they can’t afford the big increase in heating, cooling and lighting bills
For many of us, though, these problems don’t really exist. For those of us who can do so, working from home full time or at least the majority of the week eg: 3-4 days/week enables them to work more productively, be happier about work as well as save time and money on commuting.
Talking with various people working at small and large corporations, the trend seems to be that managers and CEOs who actually listen to their staff are letting people who want to work from home do so while enabling those who can’t to return to offices.
On the flip side, from what people tell me about the managers and CEO’s who are forcing their staff to come back to work, these executives are mainly considering only what they like and prefer and not what is best for staff.
High level managers and above are generally wealthier than most of their staff – and probably have at least one if not several nice cars – so they don’t need to worry about catching COVID-19 on a packed bus, tram or train trip to work.
These decision makers also likely often live closer to work in more prestigious suburbs so they don’t have to waste time commuting from 1-2 hours away like their lower ranked staff who can’t afford rental/property prices closer to the commercial office areas.
Official reasons for forcing staff back to work most or all of the week often include reasons like missing out on “water cooler talk” in open plan areas.
However the people making these decisions are often those who have their own offices with a door and don’t have to experience the productivity drain of #OpenPlanOfficeHell trying to concentrate while colleagues talk loudly to each other about topics irrelevant to them.
Is your boss forcing you back to work even though you’re more productive and happier working at home? Or are they negotiating a fair balance where you get to work from home the number of days you prefer?
Let us know in the comments (use a different name if you’re worried your boss might read it).