We Can’t All Work From Home

Since the beginning of the pandemic many people have found that not only can they work from home, but they are more effective doing so. I’ve written about my enthusiasm for work from home but pointed out that it’s not always effective in previous blogs Why 100% Work From Home Is Not Effective but we need to remember that we can’t all work from home, and this can have unexpected consequences.

In the past we have had a divide between so called blue-collar and white-collar workers (factory and office). Now, we are in danger of doing the same again but in  different way. Some jobs just can’t be done from anywhere but the place of work. Medical staff in a hospital, factory workers, ambulance staff, police, laboratory researchers etc. etc. They must be where the work is.

As a result we are in danger of creating another two-tier system. Two workers on the same salary will have very different levels of disposable income if one can work from home and the other can’t. One will have all the travel costs and associated problems with being on site and the other won’t. One will have a much longer “working day” than the other when travel is considered.

There are two possible solutions to this, and neither is particularly satisfactory.

First, we could just go back to old “everybody in” system. This is equitable but not effective and as many businesses have already found, once freedoms have been granted, they are very difficult to take back.

Second, we end up having to provide incentives, both financial and other, to people to work in jobs where they cannot work from home, otherwise we will lose them to more attractive working practices.

It is a worry that with all the publicity and emphasis on flexibility and work from home we are ignoring and neglecting those who cannot avail themselves of these advantages. The problem is that many of these jobs are the essential ones of carers, other medical staff and producers of goods. These are also likely to be the ones where a four-day working week will not apply.

We need to effectively organise matters so that all employees are looked after, not just those with the advantage of flexibility.

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