I’ve been out of the office for over two weeks now. One of these days the medical powers that be will decide that boredom has become more deadly than COVID-19 and we’ll be allowed to emerge from our burrows and walk the Earth again like bears in the spring. And after we remember how the gear shift on our car works, we’ll drive to work and return to our desks and empty out the calls from our desk phones and return our laptops to their docking stations. And we’ll start to work again?
It seems odd. We’ll go back to driving two hours a day to do the same work we did from home in our slippers and Saturday clothes. We’ll sit in conference rooms for hours instead of just reading an e-mail or teleconferencing for a few minutes. Sure, for some of us there’s much that we can’t do from home. If you work on projects that require managing contractors to build stuff it’s not possible to work remotely and if you buy equipment that needs to be tested at a factory then you’ll still have to drive or fly to do that. But it will seem that driving an hour back and forth to sit at a desk for eight hours is kind of stupid. And sure, I’ll admit that going to the office a day or two out of the week would actually be beneficial to ensuring that things are going smoothly and that any mistakes have been caught and to at least keep up the pretense that your boss is useful. But more than that seems a waste of everybody’s time.
Surely, I’m not the only one who has discovered this. Possibly this earthshaking news may filter up to the front office and a more rational approach to the office environment may emerge. Think of the amount of gasoline that will be saved. Think of the car accidents and traffic jams that could be eliminated. Think of all the extra sleep that Americans will get and all the extra time they’ll get with their families. And think of the energy that the office will save with the lights and heat and air conditioning turned off in areas not being used. It really makes you think.
Now this is an exaggeration. I’m currently at the end of some projects and the beginning of some others so this was actually the most convenient time for me to be out of the office. A couple of weeks earlier or a couple of months later and I’d have been forced to go in regardless of pandemic. As I mentioned, construction can’t be managed by remote control but I have definitely seen that part of my work week could be handled from home.
But I would be very surprised if after this whole mess winds down that some steps aren’t taken to make the work week more flexible and make telecommuting a reality for more people. If I were going to pick a day for working from home, I’d make it Wednesday. Staying up late on Tuesday night and getting up late on Wednesday morning would really change the dynamic of the work week into something much more manageable. I think I’ll put that in the suggestion box this week. Oh, wait I can’t. It’s in the office. Maybe they’ll invent the virtual suggestion box.