Is work from home really the new normal?

Is working from home “now the normal”?

Illustration courtesy Hygger

That’s what April Gigetts, the president of white-collar AFSCME District Council 47, said in response to Mayor Cherelle Parker’s order that city workers would have to return to their offices starting in July.

Gigetts also said change in location of workplace would have to be negotiated through collective bargaining, although switching workplace from office to home during the pandemic was not negotiated.

Most workers liked the shift to home.

Most workers seem to not like returning to the office.

And why should they return to the office, ask some, inasmuch as productivity does not drop when working remotely.

If that’s true, maybe more work should be done remotely.

Well, I am not sure that is true because there is some conflicting data, and, for the city, it creates a two-classification work force — the white collars who can work from home, and the blue collars (such as streets, sanitation, police, fire) who must make a physical appearance.

Is allowing their white-collar colleagues to work from home fair to them?

I can see why a lot of workers would prefer to work from home. Child care being a major reason. It is expensive and workers who operate from home can pocket that expenditure.

I would not have been happy to work from home, when I was employed.

I enjoyed being around my coworkers. (Well, some of them.) I  enjoyed the synergy of interaction, and occasionally would get story ideas just from overhearing other staffers talk. There was a lot of serendipity going on. Most people are social creatures and Americans are experiencing record levels of loneliness.

“Productivity in and of itself was not a driver” of the return-to-office decision, said Camille Duchaussee, the city’s chief administrative officer. The idea is to create “a work environment that thrives on teamwork, creativity, and shared purpose.”

But there is someone other than the city workers to consider.

By that I mean the citizens who the workers are paid to serve.

In recent months I’ve needed certain city (and state, too) services and found government offices were closed. And no one was answering the phone. If you called you were directed to a website, or given an email address to use to file your question.

Not satisfactory. Not at all. 

God forbid I should sound mean, but the city is not run for the convenience of the workers; it is supposed to serve the citizens.

Radical, I know.

But is remote work the new norm? Opinions vary, such as pro and con, while CBS News say hybrid is the wave of the future.

There must be a happy medium, but for me, as a citizen, I deserve to have my needs met by an actual person behind a desk.

That’s what I find to be normal.

8 thoughts on “Is work from home really the new normal?”

  1. As a freelancer, I worked remotely for most of my career. When desktop computers and email became a thing, I knew that eventually they would allow others to enjoy the same benefits of remote working.
    The occasional meeting or brainstorming session kept me part of my teams, and lunches and dinners with clients made sure we all remained close.
    I had the ability to start work at 5am if I wanted, be finished by 9am, and spend the rest of the day on phone calls or minor tasks that came up during the day.
    It was a wonderful way to live, and if others can do it honorably, without sacrificing productivity, I say go for it! Those who prefer to work on-site also have an important part to play, but today, it can be a choice.

  2. You note “street, sanitation, et al…” but I’s like to add home health aids, doctors, nurses, social workers and white collar bankers; all who need to be on site.

    We need people in their offices, no matter what ‘office’ means in terms of ‘on-site’. I agree! Even if it’s a bit hybrid.

  3. Man is a social animal. Coming together in an office setting is a healthy thing. I applaud the mayor for bringing city workers ‘home.’ I expected the unions to gripe, as now someone will be watching them.

  4. I can see working remotely, many workers do not really need to take up office space, freeing up that space for people who are vital to city services. I know that State Welfare case workers. many of them who do not interact with the public wor remotely and it works out fine, withan occasional trip to the office for a meeting , or court. Actually remotely probably saves the city money in sick time, no shows, and diciplanary actions. So if it’s working and it’s well supervised, I guess I’m for it.

  5. Since I’ve been retired, though at times doing work from my home, I’ve watched the WFH vs. RTO debate with great interest–but dispassionately from a distance. I can see advantages and disadvantages for both sides of the argument. But it’s not a zero sum game. Some jobs can be done remotely with a great level of ease–some require an office presence. With the ability to forward calls anywhere in the world, someone should always be available to answer those city calls from citizens that you referenced and address their problems. But sadly, the quality of the individual, and their ability/willingness to help you, regardless of the situation, is a random thing; it really doesn’t matter where they may be located. Personally I’m like you, I liked going into the office, collaborating with my fellow employees. But if I were working full time today, I’d likely opt for a hybrid solution, with 1-2 days working from home, and the rest in the office.

  6. I agree Stu…I can see the pros and cons of the proposition. Maybe some jobs “can” be done remotely. The one aspect on which I have NOT seen any dialog: accountability. Old school government accountability was at best: “showing up”. As long as you clocked in, you were usually good…despite your work ethic. I ponder what (if any) new productivity guidelines and expectations have been instituted as part of the work plan for those working remotely. A blue collar type may get reprimanded/fired for not doing their job while “on” the job (maybe)…I look forward to the “discussion” (ie: excuses) if and when a remote city worker loses their job for NOT doing their job or diminished productivity. Or maybe that never happens anyway.

  7. I’ve been working remotely since 2020, and I must say it has been enjoyable, and I believe I have been just as productive here as I was in the office. But I am nearing retirement. As much as I like it now, I don’t think it would have been such a good idea when I was much younger. There is value to having a team in the office to work together (in many cases, anyway), and I did find enjoyment in that aspect back in the day. Not so much now! I think some kind of hybrid model is necessary nowadays for sure.

Comments are closed.