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Working Away from the Office

19 April 2021

Away from the Office

Working away from the office is not new, but it is frowned upon by many employers. Telecommuting garnered attention when companies discovered it was possible to get the work done even outside the office. For years, employees are sent outside the workplace for business trips that often meant traveling outside the city or even outside the country.

In Japan, the idea of working from home was introduced to companies that are still very much inclined to work in a traditional way. In 2019, when plans for the 2020 Olympics were being completed, a proposal for all Tokyo employees to work from home for one entire week made everyone nervous. In fact, exactly a year before the scheduled opening of the Summer Olympics, they conducted the most elaborate “Work from Home Rehearsal” in the history of mankind. Entire offices were emptied. They sent all their employees home for a week to simulate their plans for the opening ceremony. Their goal of course wasn’t to try an alternative way of working, but to reduce carbon emission and traffic during the first week of the games. The plan worked. Without millions of commuters, Tokyo was ready to receive its foreign visitors. It had an unexpected effect, however. Employees described the time home as a holiday. The week after the “rehearsal,” employers were keen not to entertain any notion of the possibility of making working from home a permanent option.

It seems companies and corporations around the world are still hesitant to let go of the idea of a place where they can gather all their employees and watch them work. But why?

It’s Possible Now

The Age of the Internet changed the game. It made the world seem smaller. Computing information became so simple that many of us now take it for granted. In the past, having an office was extremely important. If you want to run a business, everyone must be gathered in one place because if you need something from your employee who is not in the same building or town or country, you may have to send him a letter bearing your inquiry or request, and it might take weeks before an answer could be received. Very bad for business. As an example, when King Henry VIII died, it took one whole month for everyone in the kingdom to discover that they have a new monarch. Now, problems like that seem unthinkable. You can get an answer from someone anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. But why are employers still hesitant to send their employees home? 

Employers are scared

The technology that helped companies and corporations flourish is the same technology that makes them nervous when it comes to deciding whether to allow their people to work from home or not.

The extremely easy way to access information online is one of the reasons why employers are scared. There are a million things online, available just by a click of a button. A million things to distract their employees from working.

There’s Netflix, of course, accessible alongside softwares and applications for work. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, don’t get me started on Reddit—social networking sites that have algorithms designed to make sure its audience are continuously glued to their screens.

There’s internet almost everywhere now, so it’s not impossible to see employees working while sipping cocktails on the beach. It’s not that employers don’t want employees to sip cocktails on the beach, it’s the amount of unique distractions the beach may provide. Go figure.

Employers are also worried that they may lose that all-important status they’re enjoying if they let go of the traditional workplace. In fact, in many industries, customers tend to buy more from companies with huge offices in the most prestigious corporate addresses.

Also, we have to take into account jobs that may never be done at home. Employers are scared that if they let one group of employees home, the others might demand the same which might cause them a fortune if they ever decide to do so.

These are only a few of the things employers are worried about. There are other company-specific problems that keep them awake at night. Some of them are reasonable apprehensions, some are, well, completely ridiculous.

The Global Pandemic

The corporate nightmare begins. The global pandemic forced employers to send their people home. Most of my friends are at home now, working on their projects in makeshift home offices and workspaces. Some companies even distributed their office computers to their employees. Some were even provided internet connections. They did everything they could to ensure optimum productivity for everyone.

One of my friend is working for a very established company. She was given a new work computer, a laptop for when she needs to be somewhere else other than her home, an adjustable standing desk from a company called Flexispot, an ergonomic chair from the same company, a more stable internet, and a Home office All-in-One Desk Bike/Bike Workstation V9 so she can work out while working on her projects.

I can imagine the panic in the minds of these employers. Now that they couldn’t possibly monitor their employees every minute, they’re ensuring their people are happy. It’s quite ironic, if you ask me.

Will Change Ever Come?

Our experiences during the global pandemic, I hoped, changed the minds of companies and corporations. But it seems we are still a long way away from allowing our people to work from home. The challenges of effectively monitoring all employees during work hours are overwhelming for many employers. Perhaps it will take a cultural revolution to achieve this. Both the minds of the employers and their employees must change to ensure trust between them. It might take years, it might even take another deadly pandemic, for companies and corporations around the world to embrace the notion of working from home. We already have the technology. The gate is already opened by the internet. Perhaps, we just have to take a few more steps for the dream to become a reality.

One thing is for sure: Employees are burned out, and employers need to rethink the traditional working environment if they still want to be ahead of their competitions.