Money Matters

Work from home

Money Matters
By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 11, 22

For good order, I must mention the full form of the acronym, WFH -- Work From Home. This was necessary for the readers of my generation. The youngsters know all the full forms of the most ridiculous abbreviations created largely by GEN Z. For them ‘TTYL’ means talk to you later; ‘BRB’ means be right back, ‘IDGI’ means I don’t get it, ‘YOLO’ means you only live once and to cap this absurd and laughable elision, is DINK Family, which means double income, no kids.

Work from home

For good order, I must mention the full form of the acronym, WFH -- Work From Home. This was necessary for the readers of my generation. The youngsters know all the full forms of the most ridiculous abbreviations created largely by GEN Z. For them ‘TTYL’ means talk to you later; ‘BRB’ means be right back, ‘IDGI’ means I don’t get it, ‘YOLO’ means you only live once and to cap this absurd and laughable elision, is DINK Family, which means double income, no kids.

This piece is not about the evaluation of the pros and cons of WFH but is focused on only the Cons. The latino word ‘Pros’ means ‘For’ and ‘Con’ means ‘Against’.

The Collins English dictionary has recently revealed its word for the year 2022; and the word of the year is usually chosen to indicate the times we live in. From the year 2019- till date, firstly the world experienced the fury of the pandemic with its fatal outcomes; this was followed with Brexit, economic wars, China-US trade war, economic and financial challenges/crisis; political instability, global insecurity and more recently the war in Ukraine --, to describe this multifaceted dilemma, Collins have come up with a single word for the year 2022 : “Parmacrisis”-- defining the word further Collins says, ‘an extended period of instability and insecurity’.

Man by inherent nature is a social animal. The Robinson Crusoe’s are rare. The need to interact with people is critically important for the maintenance of stable mental health. In more pronounced and remarked situations of economic and social turbulence, we all need the peace and comfort that we can readily draw from fellow members of the family/society. The helplessness and inability of control over events as they happen, like the pandemic, cause a major toll on mental wellness. In such circumstances, the benefit of sharing and discussing with others gives respite to heightened levels of anxiety. The isolation experienced while working from home is likely to impact on the thinking framework resulting in intolerance, impatience, consternation and in worst cases bouts of depression. The utility of togetherness we experience in the work space became a major amiss in our lives, the friendly partnership that is usually in operation, vanished and hence led to the malfunctioning between several different types of relationships.

Climate change over decades and centuries has always threatened the human race; the land, sea and atmosphere are in a dynamic change all the time -- the barren becomes fertile and the fertile lands become arid zones. The detachment from the changes in environment causes fluctuations in human responses too. This was witnessed during the peak time of the pandemic. Staying indoors for long hours or shutting oneself out from the benefits of stepping out for work impacted negatively upon many professionals.

There is less face time when working from home. Those who entered into their professional lives during the pandemic have not had the chance to have even the first face to face, tete - a - tete, with their direct supervisors and colleagues. There is no affinity, there is no relationship for them, as a factor of association with their workplace.

The interconnectedness of nature is best explained by Aristotle in his treatise, ‘Metaphysics’, “All things ( in the universe ) are ordered together somehow, but not all alike - both fish and fowls and plants; and the world is not such that one thing has nothing to do with another; but they are connected. For all our orders together to one end... All share the good of the whole”. While this is extremely philosophical, yet it explains that individuals when merged into teams are able to achieve business and corporate objectives better than they would otherwise as individuals -- the consequence being the assembly and convergence of positives of all members.

Motivation requires physical presence -- remote motivation is deception, it carries no emotions or feelings. The documentation of the appreciation of good and hard work must be a supplementary act to the invigorating, face to face feedback/motivation. In isolation, it is expunged of the impact of either inspiring or motivating. The levels of motivation in the work from the home era took a major nose dive.

There are cost implications arising from the concept of WFH (Environment/license), for both the individual and the institution.The organisation saves on physical space,the concept of hot offices is predominant now, the energy costs are lowered, with less air conditioning or heating; the cost of janitorial services is also on the decline, etc. For the individual there is cost for instituting the right IT hardware, with increased energy costs to self and the paraphernalia of coffee, tea, cookies, etc.

The work place timings are defined in most societies. Those who work beyond the stated times, do so not by choice, but because of unfriendly supervisors or for reasons of having to do more work, due to shortage of hands. In the work from home environment there is no concept of time -- hence most end up working between 14-16 hours of every single day of the week. The concept of weekend relaxation also got thrown out of the window. All this has led to decline in general health, which obviously impacts the behavioural responses. In work from home, everybody runs the very high risk of ‘overworking’ oneself, to the peril of one’s own health.

In the work from home environment the distractions can be aplenty. To believe that there is no disturbance is a myth -- and culture plays an important part in setting for oneself the standards for organising daily work at home. Given our culture, there is no way that family issues and matters would not intrude. Spouses and children with free access to the office at home make the environment more akin to the TV lounge atmosphere hence impacting quality and quantum of the work output.

Regardless of how good a worker one may be there is always that necessary need for monitoring the output inclusive of the quality of tasks performed. In an office work environment, this is available all the time, while when working from home, there is no feedback available on a real time basis. The corrective actions hence are invariably delayed.

A major casualty in my view of work from home is the element of ‘discipline’, in all its manifestations and formats; ranging from timings to dress code. In the WFH environment the young professionals particularly have become violative of the accepted norms of socially acceptable timings and dress. They start work at odd hours; sleep very late; watch late night movies/shows on Netflix and then wake up late -- very late. The need for discipline in having proper meals at given timings has gone for a six. Life has for such become irregular and indisciplined. With my own offspring, who lives overseas I have long debates with him, while visiting him on the need to be disciplined in timing and dress code/grooming - he says “Dad, it is important to have work done! That is significant within given deadlines from the supervisor. How and when I do it is unimportant; and if I don’t wear a tie and a suit while working from home it is perfectly alright ... Because for meetings I have my formal necktie with Bermudas; so if I don’t shave everyday it is also okay ...” And thus the dialogue ends with again a word that I have used but which now has acquired a totally new meaning unfolded to me -- ‘Chill Dad’.

‘implications arising from the concept of WFH (Environment/license), for both the individual and the institution. The organisation saves on physical space, the concept of hot offices is predominant now, the energy costs are lowered, with less air conditioning or heating; the cost of janitorial services is also on the decline, etc. For the individual there is cost for instituting the right IT hardware, with increased energy costs to self and the paraphernalia of coffee, tea, cookies, etc.

To the individual, there’s saving in commuting cost, not to mention the unmeasurable saving of not having to wake up in a rush and dash to the underground or any other public transport, or in some cases not having to spend on fuel. My offspring and niece very proudly say to me that they save one way, everyday sterling £8-10!!! Not a good sign, In my view.

Work from home demands heavy dependance on robust IT platforms. Organisations that do not have sound IT programmes can encounter serious problems of delays and breakdowns. This is true more in the context of the country’s own IT and communication infrastructure. The less developed countries have unstable platforms and hence the risk of continuation of working from home is not a healthy objective to pursue.

Since work is accomplished at your own speed, but within given deadlines, the tendency to take power naps or coffee breaks is usually too frequent -- it becomes an essential for the lost sleep that gets dedicated to earlier nights Netflix engagements. The irresponsible and unacceptable sleeping patterns, with telling effects on health on a long term basis are another major negative outcome of working from home.

In recognition of these issues, organisations are coming up with hybrid solutions; like many organisations in Europe, UK and USA are now requiring staff to attend office at least twice a week.

When colleagues work remotely, the concept of corporate culture becomes a misnomer - when there is no human interaction how can any culture develop. The digitisation of human feelings and emotions is not possible.


The writer is a senior banker & freelance columnist