In this corner, the theory that humans are not meant to work from home. That it can be bad for our mental health and lead to social isolation, a lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating habits. Psychologists warn that it’s not a good way for young people to begin their working lives.
In this corner, the opposite opinion. Working from home is what people have done since the agriculture revolution about 12,000 years ago. Forcing people to commute, and crowding them together in buildings is unnatural.
So, where’s the truth? It’s probably all true and remote work’s effect on a person depends on that person. Personally, I love it.
The current strike by federal government (PSAC) workers centred on wages and remote work. (As of this writing, Canada Revenue Agency workers are still on strike.) Lots of jobs have to be done in the office or on location. But plenty of others don’t. If you’re taking phone calls, it’s not crucial. So, why not let people work where they want to?
It’s not as if employees asked to work from home during the pandemic. Covid-19 didn’t give them a choice! And now, many prefer it. There are so many advantages. Financially: saving money on gas and not buying expensive lunches and lattes. Personally: saving time and having the freedom to throw in a load of laundry between tasks, for example.
And friends who live in Ottawa say there’s nowhere “at the office” for some of them to work. The federal government is renovating some buildings and has added lots of staff since the pandemic. The hybrid model is supposed to mean workers share desks and alternate days in the office. These friends also say many public servants have side hustles they hide from their “real” bosses. That doesn’t mean that most do, or that remote work is a bad idea.
Job-Hunting by Location
It’s a tricky time to find a good work-location fit, depending on what kind of job a person is looking for. Voice work – my main occupation – aside, I also freelance as a writer and clients come and go. I’ve worked for companies in New Brunswick, Mumbai, India, Mexico, other cities in Ontario, and several US states. The hunt is always underway to some degree. And it’s the remote/in-house/hybrid situation that gets in the way of finding new work, more than any other factor.
The typical freelancer websites are circling the drain, in my experience. The writing jobs on offer are insultingly low-paying with unrealistic expectations. So I search the bigger job sites where there’s a better chance of finding professionals seeking professionals.
Whether it’s LinkedIn, Indeed, or another portal, I also get daily alerts for writing jobs. After I weed out full-time, or not right for me, what’s left are in-house. Some will accept a hybrid situation where the writer comes in occasionally. But occasionally is still too often for me. By the time I drive to, say, Toronto and back, I’ve spent whatever I’ve earned and maybe more. And it ruins the lifestyle we’ve built. Commuting is not in the plan.
Hybrid Means Uncertainty
Part of what concerns PSAC workers is that if a job is hybrid, it can be made fully in-house at any time.
I’m sure there were people who have taken advantage of working remotely. But there are people who don’t do what’s expected when they’re right under the supervisor’s nose. I think the refusal to allow workers to work fully remotely has to do with control. Some say it’s about team spirit. But freelancers and part-timers are supplemental, so that doesn’t ring true, either.
I’m also sure there are others who missed the at-work environment and are happy to return to it. The pandemic taught us how important workers are to our way of life. People ought to have the power of choice.
Looking back on my long radio career, I see where I took on another persona when I went into a building to work. My life was separated into work-me and home-me. Now, there’s just me, with an integrated existence. And there’s simply no going back.