There’s no question that one of the perks of the pandemic was the working from home revolution that took place.
Suddenly, the morning commute on a late-running train or the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the M4 was replaced by a leisurely stroll to the kitchen table in your slippers and a lunchtime episode of ‘Tiger King’ on Netflix.
It’s no surprise so many of us tried to hold on to such luxuries. “I’m much more productive here at home,” was a constant argument, as the laptop class tried so desperately to avoid a return to the office.
Many experts tried to tell us that working from home was here to stay; a lesson learned during the pandemic that businesses big and small would simply have to accept.
But a structure that was essentially developed overnight in the midst of a global pandemic was never really going to fly forever, was it?
As the world returned to normal over the last year or so, the reality of working from home began to hit.
How do businesses effectively on-board new employees, and build culture, when the workforce is sitting on the lounge at home begrudgingly joining a Zoom meeting a couple of times a day?
How is productivity effectively managed, when you can’t see the team in front of you and judge the context of such productivity?
What is the long-term impact of minimal face-to-face interactions on mental health, or a person’s confidence in their role?
All of this aside, is it not up to the business who employs you to decide the basics of the role, such as where it is based?
The ball may have been in the employee’s court during the pandemic, and particularly given the worker shortage that followed, but the pendulum is shifting.
The laptop class can not suck on the teat of flexible working forever.
Last week, the Commonwealth Bank ordered its workforce of 49,000 employees to return to the office at least 50 per cent of the time from July, and many of those are up in arms over such a request.
You read that right, by the way. 50 per cent of the time. Not every day. Literally two or three days a week.
And as far as I can tell, Commonwealth Bank is accepting this over a month period – meaning you could do a full week at home or on the beach, and the next week at the office.
Seems fair and reasonable.
But many bank staffers were outraged, including some that said it was a hip pocket hit given they’d now have to arrange daycare for their kids.
Now that one kind of proves the point of Commonwealth Bank, don’t you think? After all, if you’re legitimately smashing out that work and your productivity is sky high, surely your child is in daycare already, right?
I’m not suggesting the five-day grind back to the office needs to be implemented across the board.
Working one or two days a week from home is an excellent middle ground that is often a godsend for families.
But we’re at risk of creating a selfish workforce cut off from reality if we don’t embrace being back in the office more than not.
You can kid yourself all you like about productivity and a lack of interruptions, but we all know that for many, the work day at home also includes a couple of loads of washing and a visit to the gym.
We can’t ask businesses, no matter what the size, to absorb that forever.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.