Culture3 min read

This Got Us Thinking: what if working from home isn’t a Utopia for all?

Here at Hive Learning we’ve been working from home since mid March. While not without its challenges, we’ve been able to adapt well to working remotely.

This got us thinking.

While working from home has been a great transition for many people, what about those who are struggling? For many, working at home is a luxury they can ill afford. Those of us with ready-to-go office spaces will adapt better than those in shared accommodation. What about people who feel lonely and rely on a busy office interaction to thrive and produce their best work? And what about those who simply don’t have the space to move their businesses to a home environment, like hairdressers, plumbers or chefs?

Line up hair by @studiosoriginals.

At first glance, working from home can feel like a dream. No more dreaded commute, more time to spend with the family, close proximity to the cookie jar…wait, is that a good or bad thing?

But working from home excludes some people. It’s not the promised land for some workers, many of whom will be chomping at the bit to get back to their usual workspaces. According to Gallup, 41% of workers in the U.S. want to return to their office or workplace once restrictions are lifted. A report called Homeworking in the UK: Before and During the 2020 Lockdown, found that 30% of workers said that their productivity had fallen while working from home.

Working work from home by @slothilda.

Spending more time at home may be a pleasure for many. But for some, the lockdown and working at home means compromising safety, a rise in inequality and a barrier to opportunities.

Here are a few tidbits that got us thinking this week.

🏠 The trouble with renting

Finding a space to work from home when you own your own house is tricky enough. You need to stake your claim to a quiet part of the house. Then check your internet connection is up to scratch for all those conference calls. Finally, battle to keep the kids or pets out of the room. But how do renters or people sharing a house manage? In the U.K according to Spareroom, the number of people sharing flats aged between 35 and 44 rose by 186% between 2009 and 2014. The more people in a house, the trickier it is to find a quiet, comfortable space to work.

Corona working remotely by @jasonclarke.

In the U.K, some tenancies specifically forbid home-based work. Newly-built social housing often doesn’t take into account the need for study spaces so valued by remote workers. Working from home is something that so many of us take for granted, but what happens when your tenancy legally stops you? Do you give up your home, or your job?

Check out this article, which talks about why working from home is a luxury that many renters can’t afford.

❌ Home is not always a safe place

Let’s not forget that for some people, home is not a safe place. Victims of domestic abuse who are forced to work from home may find themselves trapped with their abuser. In the U.K the National Domestic Abuse Helpline saw a 25% increase in calls since the lockdown began.

Lockdowns have also highlighted racial bias and discrimination. In Europe, Amnesty International found that police forces enforcing Covid-19 lockdowns have “disproportionately targeted ethnic minority and marginalized groups with violence, discriminatory identity checks, forced quarantines and fines.”

Advice for people to work from home, stay home, or near home, may not be possible for some people, and a genuine danger for many.

Watch this short video of survivors of domestic violence discussing the dangers of life in quarantine.

🍽️ Not everyone can work from home

As most office employees hunkered down at the start of the pandemic, many workers in industries like retail, hospitality or healthcare were faced with a difficult choice; either stay home and lose money, or go to work and potentially get sick.

Mask doctor by @duck_muscle.

The fact is that not every industry is able to offer flexible working for its employees. And the poorest have been hardest hit by lockdowns and social distancing measures when it comes to jobs. The World Economic Forum published a paper that found:

“Young workers and those without university education are significantly less likely to work remotely.”

While some people have been able to work from home with a little adapting, the jobless rate continues to climb, with people of color hit disproportionately hard. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics in March the unemployment rate for Black people stood at 6.7%. For white people, it was 4%. The Bureau also found that 37% of Asian workers and 29.9% of white workers are able to work remotely, but only 19.7% of Black workers, and 16.2% of Latinx workers, are able to do the same.

Why not spend 30 minutes this week learning about people who are less able to work from home? Here’s an article to get you started.

✅ Challenge for the week ahead

Working from home is a challenge for many of us. Some people get lonely, others just don’t have the physical space. Have you and your team been working from home during the pandemic? In your next team meeting ask them how they’re really coping with working outside of the office. If you’re worried about people not speaking up, then save this question for a one-on-one chat.

Are your team members already back in the office? Why not ask them how they found working remotely, and if there are any aspects or changes they would like to keep?

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