Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Work From Home Observations

 I retired a while ago but I liked to work from home when possible in my later work years.  I liked it for the obvious reasons: no commute, I could handle domestic issues like the plumber, and, sorry to say, I could goof off at times.  

Was I as productive as I was at work?  Probably close, given my job and the fact that I was physically at work 95% of the time and WFH was usually for a day or two every few weeks.

Were there downsides?  Yes, my wife considered WFH to be a secondary activity compared to domestic chores like taking out the garbage, walking the dog, etc.  

Other issues?  I worry about a few things if WFH becomes the majority of work time.

  • Loneliness will be an issue for some folks.  There is a social side to work and there is a personal support benefit to being around people.  If you screwed up on a project, are your coworkers going to effectively help and support you via video?
  • Learning on the job is extremely important and we hear that remote learning was not good for children at school, will it be equally bad for new employees or people in new jobs trying to figure out their new role?
  • The WFH fans also seem to ignore a few economic downsides.  If a company is 100% WFH, they don't need workers in the USA, they could just as easily outsource work to low cost countries.  Also, employers will figure out that it is cheaper to hire a WFH person in Arkansas than in Silicon Valley and pay them less.  It will also be easier to fire or lay off a person that you have rarely met and you can let them go on a video call.
  • Career progression will be an issue.  Out of sight means out of mind and promotion criteria will change. In the past, visibility was critical for promotion and the new WFH world may be better, maybe worse.
  • Disruption risks are much higher.  You are completely cut off if the Internet at your home or your computer goes down.  Hacking is also a risk.
But never mind all this, I am just an old retired guy.  The work world will figure this out and I look forward to business media articles about the downside of WFH once the euphoria dies down and the labour market softens.

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