There’s a new acronym on the block – WFH, working from home. And it comes with a verb: woofing. Back in the day, managers worked from home unchallenged, usually on a Friday when they fancied a long week away. For subordinates, it was considered taking a sickie, generally on a Monday after a long weekend of self-indulgence, a black mark noted by HR. But WFH is the new normal. There is no going back. Not to be confused with WTF, which is a whole other thing.
Working from home offers two big pluses and one significant minus. And a question mark.
Take a superyacht management employee working in Monaco but living in Mougins. The daily drive is the daily grind. The entrance to Monaco was never meant for cars. Monaco is where it is because it is difficult to access, not only pirates and the reach of the law but also tax authorities. Just as you have almost arrived, there is the long, tortuous crawl from the motorway. It takes an hour to wind down and operate at anything near peak efficiency.
Each employee requires a desk, an overhead for office space in yachting centres where offices don’t come cheap. So you have cost and efficiency issues. A worker doing WFH can start the day running, fresh and eager, not worn down by the daily grind just to be seated at a desk. Studies by the ICM, the Institute of Cost Management, have identified that workers do longer hours working from home, are more efficient, and are more likely to deal with issues out of hours and at weekends without feeling resentment. Logging on to a central server, with IP address monitoring, allows Human Resources to identify if any slackers are down at the beach when they should not be.
However, remote meetings by Zoom or other conference software are not deemed as creative as face to face meetings which feed off immediate human interactions. The question mark hanging over the WFH corporate structure is do employees have a sense of belonging, which in turn engenders loyalty and pride in their company’s achievements? It is lonely in a home office on your own even when you can zoom. Who do you have lunch and gossip with? Or maybe that is a good thing – less gossip.
The office has always been an integral component of the capitalist infrastructure. The Shard in London is a landmark building, a towering glass pinnacle with a hotel, bars and a 24-floor office complex. Office life has long been parodied as an experience of petty squabbles, drudgery, back-stabbing and ambition. How will this change in a WFH society?
Landlords will have to work harder for their money and adapt by creating shared workspaces. The big brokers will always need a luxurious front for their business, with reception, conference and client meeting rooms, maybe a Picasso on the wall and a Brancusi in the foyer to really impress potential owners. The back office will be elsewhere, at home, all digitally linked, operating off a shared server. It does not need to be on display.
What about the status of the WFH worker? How to apportion their overheads in terms of using their home as a workspace, their electricity and internet connection? There are tax liabilities to consider. Tax authorities generally do not consider self-employed status as valid if a worker has some kind of contractual relationship with a company on an exclusive basis, as it removes the liability for social taxes from the employer. And there may be issues of employment status in terms of protected rights.
These are issues which national governments will have to address in amending legislation and tax structures to reflect the changing nature of business. The modern office will gradually be less of a fixed location but more a network of employees working in a shared virtual office. Employees are already judged by their performance and efficiency– no change there in the virtual workspace. Lateness will not be an issue nor will a sour face on arrival after a shitty journey into work. In fact, people are generally brighter and more cheerful on Zoom. No more Monday blues.
On a lighter note – what to wear? Do you wear a smart jacket, shirt and tie on top and speedos and flip-flops below for a man? Chanel top and pyjamas for a woman? Does dressing smart make you feel more professional? Certainly lounging around in sports gear during the Great Locking Up has demotivated many people. And how does management enforce a dress code remotely? We all know that brokers and management companies are very brand conscious. Branded pyjamas?
It’s all changing out there. Are ready you to woof?