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If working from home is selfish, then count me in

Less stressed, more energised: Why leaders must embrace ‘selfish’ hybrid working.

Don Draper from Madmen is on the phone looking stressed in the office - Kate Browne sits on her front porch holding her dog looking happy and relaxed.
For many of us, where we do our work is now irrelevant says Kate Browne from Yahoo Finance pictured working from home with her dog (Source: AAP)

This week, a Sydney executive blasted people who chose to work from home as “selfish”.

CR Commercial Property Group chief executive and managing director Nicole Duncan called into a Sydney radio station to comment on a segment on people’s ability to work from home.

“This generation is just selfish,” Duncan said, and then went on to say that, “back in her day”, she commuted to work and it took hours. But said it’s necessary for all workers to get back to the office for the sake of their careers and the economy.

Well, I disagree. And as a Gen Xer, I’m pretty sure I’m not from the “selfish generation” Duncan is referring to.

Office working old-fashioned, expensive and exhausting

While working in an office five days a week was all well and good back in the days of Madmen’s Don Draper, I think working in the office full-time has gone the way of smoking at your desk, using a typewriter or having a secretary posted outside your office ready to take notes.

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While having to “be somewhere” in order to do your job was a necessity in the past, for many of us, it is irrelevant where we do our work now, thanks to technology. Yet, until COVID hit, it was still the norm for many workplaces and, for many of us, it was exhausting and difficult.

Back in 2019, my full-time working week often felt like a triathlon - exhausting, sweaty, and occasionally overwhelming.

Wake at 6:00am, throw on the clothes I’d laid out the night before, wake my young, loudly protesting daughters, make breakfast - which they’d refuse to eat - feed the pets, look for missing school items, locate and pack lunch boxes, get in the car, drive to before-school care, get my daughters out of the car, sign them in, convince them they were going to have a good day, run back to the car, drive to the light rail station, get onto a packed light rail carriage, travel for 30 minutes, then walk for another 15 minutes before climbing into a packed elevator and making my sweaty way to my desk just before 9:00am. All just to have my child-free colleague say: “Wow, you like to start pretty late in the day, don’t you?”

At 5:00pm, I got to do the routine all over again but in reverse, before falling into bed and getting ready to do it all over again the next day. While I loved my job and my family, working full-time in the office was a bit like being punched in the face, repeatedly.

Then COVID hit, and suddenly we were ALL at home, ALL the time. Let’s not even go there.

Close-up of a single father working from home with his son studying next to him.
Working from home offers a flexibility rarely imagined before the pandemic. (Source: Getty) (Marko Geber via Getty Images)

Hybrid working is a hit

Now it’s 2023, and I now work what’s called hybrid (three days at home and two days in the office). It’s a working style that has become the default for many office workers in Australia.

For me, it’s a good mix, three days from home where starting work means simply opening my laptop. No commutes and no dragging reluctant children out of the house to be minded (and paying top dollar for it). As a result, I’m a lot less stressed, less tired and far less out of pocket.

The other two days I work in the office (our team works in the office on the same days) and, by then, it’s a welcome change from sitting at my dining room table. It’s two days where we can meet in person, grab lunch together and have those conversations with colleagues that I might not be directly working with and wouldn’t encounter working from home.

Work from anywhere brings plenty of benefits for employers

And while there are some very valid points about being in the office at least sometimes, I have also benefited from working with people who work from home 100 per cent of the time. In fact, half of my team doesn’t live in Sydney, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

My colleague works from regional NSW and his flexible hours mean he can drop off and pick up his three kids from school. One of our journalists is based in Queensland and she is brilliant. If we had a strict rule about staff working from the office in Sydney, she wouldn’t have been a consideration as a candidate, which would have been our loss.

And while I’ve written about the bonus of hybrid work from the perspective of a parent, you don’t need kids to benefit from this way of working. Everyone can enjoy the benefits of flexible work, rather than trying to cram non-work life into the weekends. When you add in the rising cost of living, the cost of petrol, commuting and housing, working from home can help ease the squeeze on already-tight budgets.

Socially selfish or smarter?

As for the social/networking element when you work remotely or hybrid? I think it’s still so important for a team to have time being a team, but I don’t believe you have to be shoulder to shoulder to do that.

My team has a morning news meeting and it’s pretty loose. While we nail down the stories we are going to cover, we also have a gossip, hold up our pets on camera, talk about our families, what we are watching, and more. Some might say this is a waste of time, but I think it’s critical - the best teams like and trust each other, and when you are remote this is our version of the water cooler.

Will we see a time when we are all back in the office five days a week? I really hope not. I think there are much smarter and cheaper ways to work these days and for those who can’t see that, then perhaps they are the ‘selfish’ ones.

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