The global COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a number of interesting issues about our society. One of them is that working from home (WFH) arrangements are not only possible, but in many instances more beneficial to employers and employees alike.
Indirect benefits of WFH arrangements are obvious and include: reduced traffic congestion (and incidental pollution levels); reduced need for office space and therefore, an automatic increase in profits; the ability for employers to source talented employees beyond the confines of usual geographical limitations; and greater flexibility for employees to cater to family commitments.
Although employers have had the ability to offer WFH arrangements for many years, until now, very few were willing to consider it seriously. Whatever their reasons, it is now clear that workplace systems can be altered and improved to the mutual benefit of employers and employees.
By way of analogy, consider how cramped economy-class flights are. While this may be viable for relatively short national flights, long-haul international flights are a different proposition. Although airlines know that sitting in confined spaces for lengthy periods of time can lead to deep vein thrombosis in some passengers, which can result in death, they have failed to improve seating design. All passengers would be better served if airlines made a simple change, increasing leg-room for economy-class passengers and reducing leg-room for business and first-class passengers.
As with our acceptance of unhealthy economy-class seating arrangements, so it is with unhealthy working arrangements. There is scope for significant changes to be made to systems of work which can improve “leg-room” and benefit society as a whole.
It would be sad if we waited for another event of global proportions before making improvements to our systems of work. This article by anthropologist James Suzman provides useful insight about the unsustainability of existing work habits. There is scope for significant improvements to be made to our existing work practices. The only question is whether employers who are in a position to implement these changes will have the willingness to do so.
Workplace Relations Advisor & Investigator