Post-COVID Action 4/5: Get More Out of Life by Working from Both Home and Workplace
Wouldn’t you like a better work-life balance? One way to have it is by not wholly reverting to working en masse and full time in offices, factories and other workplaces, once the coronavirus pandemic is over. Let me tell you why and how.
For those of us that could, the pandemic forced us to work from home for two to three months. Somehow, it feels like a lot longer to me. We have learnt a lot from this experience, individually and collectively, beyond reducing the spread of the infection. There are personal and social learnings and in the economic and ecological impact.
Each of us would have had a slightly different feeling as the days grew into weeks and months. But I surmise that very few would have found it either totally terrible or entirely enjoyable.
Of the world’s 3.5 billion workers, about 50% work from offices. The rest work in factories, shops, farms and other employment that requires them to be at work sites. Still, it is a large number that could potentially change their way of working significantly, and almost all can manage at least some change.
Admittedly, working from home is not a panacea for the ills of the working life. Not only is it impossible for certain types of industries and roles, but there can be some negative aspects:
- Boredom, higher family strain, psychological stress, increased domestic violence, a smaller professional network, reduced quality of work, imperfect communication, lower technical skills, deficient attention and energy, reduced hiring quality, inadequate social skills and worse working conditions
But there could be several benefits:
- Fewer road deaths, decreased traffic stress, lowered road rage, less time wastage, higher productivity, reduced pollution and global warming, slashed ecological stress, energised local communities, better family life, more time for children, spouse and parents, the comfort of using our own things, enjoyment of hobbies, indulging varied interests, better all-round personality, flexible working as per one’s body and family needs, chores shared better with the spouse, more friends, healthier eating, improved sexual health, less philandering, better use of existing real estate, energy efficiency and unburdened roads and infrastructure
I swear, I didn’t try to make the list of positives longer. It just happened.
Usually, in human history, moderation between two extremes has worked out best for any endeavour. It is called the Golden Mean. Considering we are closer today to the extreme of working almost exclusively out of the home, there must be benefits in redressing the imbalance.
So, if we were to carry it out, what would it look like? Let us assume the following in the long run:
- There is no social distancing or lockdown, and people are free to go about doing their normal activities such as shopping, going to malls and movies, eating out, attending events, worshipping together, etc.
- A certain critical mass of employees will need to be in the workplace at any time by rotation
- Certain functions will need more work outside the home, examples being retail selling, breakdown services, plant maintenance, cleaning services, etc.
- All the infrastructure required for efficiently working from home will be available, for example, cloud services, the internet, collaboration tools, information security, IoT, M2M, automation, etc.
- We will apply psychology to work out if Mondays and Fridays are the best days to work in an office, for example, and break up the week into a mix of healthier chunks
- The combination of industries will vary by country, but within each sector, the functions will be more or less alike between countries
- The total hours worked per week will vary by country and industry
- Both productivity and psychological health will be taken into account to decide the right break up
Here is my estimation of the average percentage of working from home that could be right, by type of industry, for most of its workers:
A. Services (55% of the global workforce) WFH %
- Utilities – 50%
- Retail trade – 25%
- Wholesale trade – 50%
- Transportation and warehousing – 25%
- Information – 75%
- Financial activities – 75%
- Professional and business services – 60%
- Educational services – 50%
- Health care and social assistance – 25%
- Leisure and hospitality – 50%
- Other services – 40%
- Federal, State and Local government – 50%
B. Goods Producing Industry (20% of the global workforce) WFH%
- Mining – 10%
- Construction – 15%
- Manufacturing – 25%
C. Agriculture and other outdoor industries (25% of the global workforce) WFH %
The services industry is most amenable to this reorganisation, and it happens to be the one growing steadily larger and larger. It helps the realisation of this goal.
We could carry out psychological and economic studies before adopting more residential work. But there appears to be overwhelming circumstantial support for the idea with as many as 70-80% of all workers being for it. We may be on to something transformative in the history of the species. It will make us better workers and nicer people, and make our lives a lot more enjoyable.
So, dear worker, colleague, friend and family member, promote in every way you can to make the norm working from both home and away.
You can (re)visit Post-COVID Actions 1, 2, 3 & 5 at:
Shashi on LinkedIn