• Pat Kelly

Working From Home, The Debate Rages On

The debate continues on about working from home. And who knows it may be mandatory for us all again as another total lockdown looks imminent.

The views range from totally for it, to sitting on the fence, to totally against it. I’ll make my case again.

We are all as one in deeming it critical for kids to get back into school. For their education and for their social development. Why then, do we not take the exact same view when looking at working in the office versus working from home?

Home for very many of us is a cramped and uncomfortable space when we spend too much time there. For others of us, it is a chaotic cocktail of interruption and incident. It’s not the paradise that we all wish it would be. More than that though, just like our kids, we need the order, we need the company, we need the spontaneity from which great things come.

Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next is well regarded in the industry for speaking good, honest common sense. He argues that, "At its best, an office can be a cauldron for new ideas and enhanced collaboration."

Death by deck was one drawback of home working, he said, along with the absence of those chance meetings and spontaneous conversations that can make a business sing. On the other hand, he said, his home-based colleagues were less stressed from the commute, less distracted and often more focused and more effective. “At best, these new ways of working have engendered independence of action, creativity and stimulated innovation.”

So, opinion is divided even within one titan of the retail industry who appears to be navigating this crisis better than most. In truth, it's all about achieving a balance. Working exclusively from home is unlikely to become a thing, just as a return to working exclusively from the office is also unlikely.

Our anxieties and fears, now deeply embedded, together with the technology to enable it, have ushered in a new era of working, something I like to refer to as 'smart working'. A combination of working from home, the office and working near to home.

Yes, expect those empty premises on your local high street to soon be given a new lease of life as local work hubs, working from the office without the commute.

Office life can now be more effectively mixed with some home based work and near home working for those who want it. But ultimately, we humans are social beings and for that reason alone, the office must remain. It's just that we must make it safe again in order to get back and develop ourselves and our colleagues.

Pat Kelly is a Co-Founder at SafePrem Solutions

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