Working from home is the new normal as employers struggle to make day-to-day work

For many office workers, it’s a comeback. But that’s not exactly the return to the office. And it probably won’t.

We are approaching two years since COVID-19 forced a work-from-home revolution as governments asked people to stay away from public spaces to slow the spread of the disease.

Even when epidemics declined – and in states and territories that barely requested restrictions and closures – workers largely refused to return to offices full-time.

Companies may want to force their workforce into a 2019 9-5 straitjacket model, Monday through Friday, in the office.

But with extreme work pressure on employers – essentially making it a seller’s market for people interested in new jobs – that’s not going to happen.

Welcome to #WFH Forever. Type of.

Red heeled puppy Hank helps his mother work from home during the lockdown. Expect even happier days for Australian dogs.(Provided: Fontaine Rachel)

Not for everybody

From baristas to horse trainers, nursery nurses to masseuses, most Australians work in fields that will require them to show up, not just connect.

a man in front of a coffee machine
Over 60 percent of the work cannot be done at home. But many can.(ABC News)

If you are one of the millions of “front line” workers who have to be physically at your workplace to do their jobs, your life is unlikely to change much.

For that vast majority, the only change they are likely to see are busier suburban cafes, more people plowing the walking track at lunchtime and insane city congestion as people stay close to the place. where they started the day.

But about 35% of jobs have aspects that allow them to be done at home, according to a report by the Productivity Commission, the government’s think tank. The types of jobs tend to be better paid and more likely to be full time, workers tend to be women.

Woman working from home with child and laptop
While this has some drawbacks, most office workers are drawn to working from home two or three days a week.(Adobe: Ilona)

For these people – a huge percentage of the masses who passed through our central business districts daily in the pre-COVID era – the office is now just a place they can work.

And it’s not particularly appealing.

We did this

Australians love to project an image of rural charm and wild adventure, but the reality is that we are one of the most urbanized nations in the world.

Our three biggest cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – are bigger or as big as national capitals like Madrid, Berlin and Amsterdam, but without the subways, the dense life, the “villages within 20 minutes” and the infrastructure that supports them. make it work.

As a result, an ever-burning urban periphery offers the only affordable housing. But so far, it has largely been dormitories, with no work.

The price paid for a smaller mortgage is extremely long journeys – usually to the central business district (CBD) – on extensive or no public transport that was not intended for a city of this size.

People walk past La Puerta de Alcala during a heavy snowfall in downtown Madrid.
People walk past La Puerta de Alcala during a heavy snowfall in downtown Madrid. They also have 302 metro stations to get around.(AP: Andrea Comas)

In Madrid, more than 75% of residents live within 600 meters of a metro station. Yet each of our major capitals has public transport deserts where decades have passed as residents await the long-promised infrastructure.

The Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey is an epic University of Melbourne research project that examines how we live our lives.

You won’t be surprised to find that a long commute to work affects people’s satisfaction with their jobs.

“Those who spend a lot of time getting to and from work each day are more likely to be dissatisfied with their job overall, as well as their working hours, the flexibility to balance work commitments and non-professionals and wages, “we read.

Here is the kick.

“Additionally, people who commute longer are more likely to expect to quit their jobs within the next 12 months than those who spend less time commuting to and from work.”

No shock

That brings us to now: as office workers begin to reconnect and sneak into the office after the Christmas and New Years holidays.

Since the start of the pandemic, surveys of office workers have been remarkably consistent. Most want to work two or three days a week in the office. Some want zero, some want five, but most want two or three. They will probably get their wish.

Loud real estate industry lobby groups have spoken out to demand that officials be forced back to office, to reinvigorate the declining CBD.

Interesting, isn’t it? The public service is a big boss, with the Commonwealth, states and local communities employing just over 2 million people across the country.

But that is only 2 million out of 13 million employees in the country, and most civil servants work in health and education fields (hospitals and schools) well outside the center of large cities.

What big landlords want is to see people in town. But they know private employers can’t and won’t force a newly empowered workforce – with employees in high demand – to return to the office against their will.

A photo of row upon row of employees in an open plan office.
Open spaces and shared offices are not the right workplace layout for everyone.(Provided: Unsplash)

This is because it is almost impossible to get a worker to put his child in “before school daycare”, to go somewhere near his station, to rush in the car, to commute for a while. one hour, taking the elevator to their half-empty office and doing everything backwards at the end of the day.

To hear some say, the fate of the nation rests on their shoulders.

They are meant to make their lives harder, more expensive and less efficient for… what?

The advantage of sandwich shops in town?

The situation is unfortunate for the town’s traders and homeowners who are the loudest voices in the push.

But why should individual workers make their lives difficult just because some people have over-weighed their investments in CBD office towers and retail?

Push too hard to get employees back to the office and workers will do the math: and calculate the shift to a higher paying job that cements access to flexible work.

A bit of both

No. What will bring people back to the city and lessen the tendency to work from home are the same things that have driven people to congregate in metropolises for hundreds of years.

The clash of ideas. The possibility of advancement. The desire to be in the room when and where it happens.

Expect to see redundant buildings handed over at low cost to artists, schools and small-scale manufacturers long driven from the city. Expect Mondays and Fridays to be fairly quiet for the foreseeable future.

People will come back. For some, this will manifest itself on so-called ‘anchor days’, when it is mandatory for a particular unit of the company to visit in person, or on irregular ‘team Tuesday’ when groups will come together to share ideas and be among their colleagues.

But five days a week, 9 am-5pm?

It’s like in 2019. Gone.

Maria D. Ervin