Thoughts on Work From Home / Return to Office Policies

Thoughts on Work From Home / Return to Office Policies
Photo by Marcus Loke / Unsplash

An interesting aspect of human societies is the very large gamut of opinions, often irreconciliable. Even when keeping politics and faith controversies at large, people will love to die on any given hill for their sacrosanct causes.

An enduring post-COVID controversy is the return to hybrid or in-office work. This blog's author spends an unhealthy amount of time on LinkedIn; by virtue of having a respectable number of connections, exposure to proponents or opponents of each theory, punctuated by outcry from recruiters is almost a daily endeavor.

The Cult of Return to Office

Praised by CEOs, incensed by some of the media outlets, and justified by a sizeable bunch of people with a nostalgy for either the golden age of the cubicle, or the cacophony of the open space, the return to the office is turning into a cult.

Its advantages are so obvious that it has become the panacea to all corporate problems, a theriac for the business world: increased collaboration, stronger sense of belonging, melting pot for innovation, and therefore a fuel to innovation, translating into many benefits to employees more value to shareholders.

Obviously, Return-to-Office cultists omit the endless commutes, the toxicity of office culture for certain groups of people, and the insufferable tyranny of the open space, this panopticon of the modern era where only the noisy people fully thrive. They also naively believe in a presence-oriented culture where what matters is not the outcome, but the illusion that being on-site and doing stuff on the computer equals productivity.

The Hermitages of Home Workers

On the other side, a growing group of heretics defends the just and holy cause of work from home: the peace and freedom to work on their own terms, at their pace, free from the absurdity of commuting, and also free from the many human nuisances of having to share space with other individuals.

Those nuisances can be work-related (interruptions, noise, inability to focus), but also more personal (unease in certain social situations, accessibility issues, auditive and olfactive nuisances), and deserve to be respected.

Under ideal conditions, home workers can deliver much more value and focus on the essential tasks without having to endure the nuisances of the office life, however individuals with a social propension may feel disconnected, or miss on the various gossips and unofficial informations. As someone who has worked remotely for a long time, the author can say that it is entirely possible to build solid trust relationships at work that go beyond professional topics. In those cases, there is virtually no disconnect.

However, incensing work from home also ignores less pleasant aspects, such as the thinner boundary between work and family, some inevitable everyday life interruptions (home deliveries, but also spouses, kids, and pets) are here to remember you that they also exist and deserve your attention.

Kids are particularly talented to crash into meetings or live streaming sessions, usually taking advantage of the remote worker's vulnerability to extort any kind of advantage such as getting more time on their mobile devices / computers.

Only Your Opinion Matters

The bottom line of this post is that no matter what every side is saying, every individual is entitled to have their opinion. When the opposite side's opinion appears to be either ridiculous, impractical, or unacceptable, there is no moral imperative to come to a compromise.

Every worker is entitled to their own opinion and judgement on the matter, the key aspect is to not let anyone dictate their conditions unless there is no other workable alternative (for example, a situation where the only other option is to lose any source of income). In that case, it's unfair and cruel, and one can only sympathize with the worker that is bound to return into office slavery.

But in other cases, no matter what recruiters say ("Oh, look at this, someone called the recruiting company a bunch of idiots. The audacity!!") or what CEOs do ("Remote employees will not get bonuses", "We will effective today mandate a full return of the workforce to office, no exceptions"), workers need to remember one important thing:

It is your inalienable right, but also your most sacred duty to make decisions entirely based on what is best for yourself and for your families.

This means not only the right to accept or decline work offers based on one's best interests, but also the ability - or even, the duty - to create the conditions for a better life where those decisions are no longer imposed from outside stakeholders, be they recruiters or corporations.

Anything else - do we agree with return to work, hybrid, or remote work - is just bullshit. So work where you want, with who you want, in the way that suits you best. You will eventually find your tribe.