Josh Freed: Remote workers may get more done, but they miss out on office chatter

The future is probably hybrid work, which means getting all your work done during three days a week at home, then going to the office the other two days to see your colleagues and have fun.

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Everyone’s talking about remote work, and I don’t mean TV channel-hopping from your distant couch.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people embraced working from home (WFH). But recently, many offices are asking them to RTW (return to work).

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Even Zoom is asking its employees to stop Zooming and start commuting. That’s like Canada Post asking us to only send email.

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I’ve spent different parts of my life working from home and others in newsrooms, so here are the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely.

Advantage 1: It saves time. Say goodbye to your daily traffic jams and hello to your pyjamas. You’ll never have to shower, get dressed or shave in your car at stop signs again.

It’s just a 30-second commute from your bed to your desk, where only your chair knows what you’re wearing. Another perk: When working at home, you get your own executive private toilet.

With WFH you can also work from anywhere, whether it’s WFP (working from porch), WFT (working from tavern) or WFB (working from bed).

Some employers even let you WFTB (work from the beach). In fact, I’m working remotely now and for all you know I’m underwater, snorkelling while I type.

Disadvantage: It’s isolating. Some say working from home is more lonely and anxiety-producing, since there’s no one around to chat to, learn from, brainstorm with or just have fun with.

When everyone’s Zooming, you never get to know your colleagues. You could meet, date and marry someone without knowing they work from home in the same company as you.

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Fortunately, when working from home, you’ll find ways to compensate for this lack of human interaction. You’ll have much more time to talk to your pets, your plants, your walls and your fridge — they are great listeners.

You’ll also have many new imaginary friends after working at home for a year. For example, say hello to my pals Bubbles, Waffles, Caspar and Yeti Whisperer.

Hi, guys! See ya at lunch!

Advantage 2: You’re secretly your own boss! You can make your own office rules and often your own hours: decide to nap or jog when no one’s watching, then catch up on work after 6 p.m.

Disadvantage: Most of us aren’t very good at bossing others, let alone ourselves. So you could find yourself having frequent “Conversations With Myself,” like this:

Employee-Josh: Excuse me, Boss-Josh. I want to take this morning off, but I’ll make it up by working all night.

Boss-Josh: I dunno. How can I work at night? I’m a freelance roofer who fixes slanted skyscrapers. That’s dangerous in the dark!

Employee-Josh: Good point, Boss-Josh, but it’s a gorgeous October morning out there. C’mon, let’s go for a run — together! Who’ll know?

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Boss-Josh: OK, Employee-Josh, you win. I’ll tell the skyscraper guy I’ve got COVID. Meet ya at the corner in five minutes.

Advantage 3: Working from home, you don’t waste valuable time gossiping with gabby office colleagues going on about sports stuff, Tinder dates and their divorce settlements.

So you can focus totally on any work that’s needed.

Disadvantage: When working at home, there’s no one to gossip with about sports stuff, Tinder dates and divorce settlements — so you’ll need to find other ways to fill time.

The reality is that gossip fills half the average office working day. The other half is spent sending personal texts, playing Wordle and gazing at your computer, pretending you’re working — not daydreaming.

I’ve worked in several newsrooms and while they were all great social hangouts, I could never get any writing done.

Fortunately, in today’s home office computer world, there’s plenty apart from work to keep you busy: for instance, watching cat videos, gambling online or communicating with your colleagues by email, chat and carrier pigeon.

Advantage 4: Working from home is good for Montreal and other cities, since there are fewer people clogging roads, polluting the air and crowding the streets.

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Disadvantage: With fewer people travelling to work, few also go to downtown restaurants, bars, stores or shows. So buildings are emptying, restaurants closing and eventually there’ll be nothing fun to do but stay home and watch TV with your imaginary friends.

Advantage 5: Increased productivity. Many studies find remote employees work longer hours, attend more team meetings and feel more productive at home than at the office.

Disadvantage: Decreased productivity. The same studies find bosses think employees get less work done when working at home, even though they attend more meetings and work longer hours.

It’s always possible that bosses are caught up in some old-fashioned idea that work really means office work. So if you take away the word “office,” we aren’t really working — even when we are.

The future is probably something in between with what’s called hybrid work. That means getting all your work done during three days a week at home, then coming to the office the other two days to see your colleagues and have fun.

The truth is this whole issue is very complex, so I’m going to brainstorm about it with my remote workmates here at home.

Caspar! Bubbles! Yeti Whisperer!

Here I come!

[email protected]

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