Work From Home (WFH) or Work From Office (WFO) has been an inevitable point of discussion on LinkedIn over the last 6 months and the debates surrounding the topic will no doubt have had an impact on shaping the future of work, but for me, the discussion should not be centred around the benefits of either option. Like anything, there will be pros and cons for each. However, often overlooked in this debate is one factor which is a benefit regardless of the mode, choice.
Throughout Lockdown and Lockdown 2.0 (the less successful and less revered sequel to Lockdown), one thing became clear to me, I had vastly underestimated the power of choice. When you are a free being to make ones own choices without coercion (this will not be a piece on free will or determinism) you live life on autopilot at times, not considering restrictions on your movements or activities and instead just doing. The same can be said about work B.C. (Before Covid), yes there were movements and businesses that advocated towards flexible working which had teams operating fully remote but by-and-large if you had a job you were expected to be in an agreed-upon location for an agreed-upon amount of hours. There was little choice or discussion, you just accepted it as the norm and did it.
Then as a result of the pandemic, we were all told to WFH and again, we just did it. Admittedly, in the previous work regime employees were not threatened with contracting a potentially fatal virus by management, therefore it seems sensible that we all did just do it. I will move on from pointing out our lack of choice as I am at risk of sounding like a failed Nike advert. The point is this, there are inevitable benefits and weaknesses to all modes of working, that which makes them palatable is having the ability to choose which one is preferable then and now.
At times B.C. there were no doubt instances in which people did not want to go into the office for whatever reason but they knew they still wanted to work that day but would just prefer not to be in the office. If they had asked to WFH they are sure the answer from their boss would have been “yes” but that doesn’t help to alleviate the years of (un)conscious programming to view WFH as a means of having an extra day off on the company’s time. Thus, they would be nervous to WFH at risk of seeming like they were slacking (unless they were using the work-place messaging tool Slack, in which case, get slacking). Lockdown has proven to businesses that if they employ good people, they will do what needs to be done regardless of where they are in the world because they feel trusted and respected.
Now that we are back to WFH guidance from the Government, I am starting to resent WFH. Not because of any of its benefits or drawbacks, but because I do not have the option of choosing my work setting. Thankfully, this denial of choice is temporary and many leaders (including at theUp.co) are putting their trust in their teams to make personal decisions on where they should work. Flexible working is not flexible when either WFH or WFO is mandated but instead, true flexibility for workers comes through choice.
After Covid, the luxury that I most look forward to is choice; choice in my work environment (for which my preference will change daily) and choice in all other aspects of life. There are always compromises to be made when opting for a mode of working but one thing remains constant, the choice is a luxury and one that should not be taken for granted. As Epicurus said (probably) “The greatest pleasure is choice.”