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Balancing life and work

Paul Brislen, Editor. 09 April 2020, 8:15 am

With everyone bar essential workers sent home, the move to remote working has been swift and merciless regardless of whether you're a fan or not.

For some companies the move was relatively straightforward. Staff took laptops home, plugged in and carried on working. The only real difference was being forced to video conference rather than shout over the cubicle wall.

For others it's a more delicate balance of accessibility and security, making sure sensitive data isn't exposed to flatmates or family members or accessed inappropriately. 

While grumblings about working from home are many and entirely valid, for some workers the move has been a revelation and companies are starting to re-evaluate whether or not having a large, expensive downtown office is really the best way to proceed.

For 2Degrees, the outbreak triggered a rapid deployment of a plan to allow customer care staff (around 400 desks) to work from home. Instead of the year-long rollout they got everyone up and running in two weeks. Today, if you call 2Degrees, you're as likely to find someone sitting at their kitchen table while they answer your call as someone in an office.

In an era where much of our work is done online is there really an overwhelming need for all staff to be in the office at all times? Surely that Victorian-era approach to time management is no longer necessary in our agile work force? If we're to be assessed and measured on our outputs then does it really matter whether we do the work in the office during classic work hours or at home when the kids are in bed?

For many, the hardest part of working from home isn't the working part at all. It's making sure you stop at the end of the day and don't slide into a constant state of work - something already exacerbated by email on phones and all the other enablements of the modern working life.

It's important to work from home, not to end up living in the office, but a little give and take on both sides must surely lead to a better work environment for those who want it.

What will have to change in many companies is the management styles of some team leaders. Working remotely does add a layer of complexity to the manager-worker relationship but it shouldn't be too difficult to measure success. After all, if workers can be agile surely so to can their managers?

Whether all this sticks once lockdown is finally lifted or not remains to be seen. For some the need to keep work and home life separate will rush them back to their offices and "normality". But for others, the opportunity to avoid commuting, save money on transport costs and spend that extra time on other pursuits might be enough to tip the balance.

And that's surely what everyone is looking for: a new work-life balance in these crazy times.


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