The New Normal

22 May 2020

"We don't offer remote working, for various reasons" was the mantra of many a company at the turn of the year. Then, Covid 19 happened, and all of a sudden companies did offer remote work after all. Quite a lot of companies, and quite a lot of work.

My workplace was the same, although to give them their credit the call to switch to remote working was made earlier than most; I'm aware of people who were going into their offices for a lot longer than I was. Friends have told me of places they know of insisting that all of the workforce are to attend the office, because some of the job roles couldn't be performed remotely: this "if you all can't, then none of you can" mentality seemed sheer madness, but it's each employer's prerogative to run their business how they see fit, of course. Even if that "running" means "into the ground".

For most people, the stories are the same; working from home means adapting to a completely different way of life, whether that means a simple change in working hours, or you needing to adapt to a child or pet deciding they want to join you on your video call.

I was personally nervous of the change, but the reality is that everyone is in the same position; whilst you're stressing about a potential video intrusion, so is everyone you're speaking to. Now, it's just another daily event; if the kids want to say hello, so be it. The novelty of Dad being at home has worn off, we've assumed "the New Normal" of Dad "going to work but not going out of the house" in this regard.

Despite the obvious benefits to working from home - loving being around the family more, seeing the fortune being saved on fuel (those horses are thirsty), the freedom to be flexible with start and finish times, the lack of commute; it's not all rainbows and unicorns. There's a big effort by all companies now to look after their staff's mental health, and it's more important than ever that people consider their physical and mental well-being. It's easy to become isolated, especially as this lockdown continues (seemingly forever) on. I'm not in the position of living alone, but I imagine that these times have been particularly trying for those that do. Where society wasn't perfect before, it would be a travesty if once all this is over, the "New Normal" for many is mental illness through a result of all the things that lockdown is preventing; human interaction being chief.

Personally, it's difficult for me at present to imagine what a post-covid-19 world looks like. All these companies that now realise that home working is a very feasible option have some interesting choices to make - do you bring people back into the office environment as soon as possible? Leave it up to them? Never? How about downsizing the office to cut costs, and adopting a more formal remote working policy? Twitter (and Twitter-owned Square) have recently announced that employees how can work from home may now do so forever; Facebook and Google have announced similar policies since. Microsoft have recently held an entire developer conference (Build 2020) remotely, with their staff presenting from home! If the big boys can manage it then surely hundreds of small companies will follow suit? I'm not entirely convinced it will happen, but it is something I'd like to see.

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