During the 2020/21 global lockdowns, a new acronym landed and was used by millions of people. I’m talking about WFH, of course. But what exactly does WFH mean? Let’s dive in…
The COVID pandemic, which kicked off in the west in 2019 and continues to this day, caused all kinds of upsets in the lives of billions of people. Millions of people lost their jobs, hundreds of thousands of people in the US, UK, and Europe, as well as elsewhere lost their lives, and economies all around the world are still reeling from the fallout
We all know COVID sucked. But it did introduce a few changes that many people actually rather liked. One of the biggest – for those in the global workforce – was NOT having to go into the office. In 2020 and 2021, millions of people started working remotely. And it wasn’t just small companies either – Google and Apple allowed their employees to work remotely as well.
The idea with working remotely – or, working from home – is that it will haunt or lessen the spread of COVID 19. If you take millions of people off of public transport and dramatically reduce the number of people in offices, this would help to stop the spread of the virus. Or, at least, that was the working theory at the time. Either way, remote working is now a thing – and plenty of people want to keep it a thing too.
What Does WFH Mean?
The acronym WFH stands for Work From Home. It became popular during the height of the 2020/21 COVID pandemic when companies the world over, following the advice of WHO, began allowing their employees to work from home in order to lessen their chances of coming into contact with the virus. The move was popular too; plenty of people now actually prefer working from home to going into the office.
By removing millions of people from commuter lines, carbon emissions in city centers dropped dramatically, public transport – buses and tubes – were less busy, and plenty of people saved a fortune on petrol and diesel as they weren’t using their cars as often. Indeed, there were many positives associated with working from home.
Is Working From Home Bad For The Economy?
But there are plenty of critics of this style of working, including none other than UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The critics of working from home claim that it is not only bad for mental health and the economy but, in the long run, it will cause more harm than good. And that’s before you get into things like data security and slow broadband speeds.
My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.
So, I believe in the workplace environment. And I think that it will help to drive up productivity, it will get our city centers moving, in the weekdays. And it will be good for mass transit. And a lot of businesses that have been having a tough time will benefit from that.
Johnson’s main issue with working from home, although not expressed clearly in his statement above, is that certain aspects of the economy, particularly those that work in the public sector, need to be in the office to get their job done properly. Johnson is also keen on getting money back into public transport coffers, after record lows during 2020 and 2021. If people aren’t using trains and tubes and buses, the services will suffer because they won’t generate enough money to survive.
Other critics of the WFH movement claim that remote working is bad for morale, that it isolates people which is terrible for anyone that suffers from depression and/or anxiety, and that there are too many distractions at home including kids, pets, your spouse, and Netflix, and that managers find it harder to monitor performance when their teams are working out of the office. Again, a lot of this does make sense. But there is always another side to an argument.
Benefits of Working From Home
Not every job is suited to working from home. If you drive a lorry or work in a factory, working from home just isn’t possible. Ditto if you’re a dentist with a practice, a policeman, or a fire fighter. There are loads of occupations that don’t lend themselves to working from home. But on the flip side, there are also plenty of jobs that do lend themselves perfectly to working from home.
And if you’re lucky enough to work in a job that lends itself to working from home, you can and will save money on transport, travel far less on a day to day basis which is better for the environment and less stressful for you, spend more time with your family and friends, and still perform well at your job, providing you get adequate IT support.
In fact, plenty of researchers have argued that working from home makes people more productive. They claim that people who work from home, more often than not, have fewer distractions versus working in a busy office environment. Not only that, but companies that embraced WFH were able to recruit new talent from all corners of the globe, making them more agile and less reliant on the smaller pool of applicants in their local area.
Plenty of companies were using work-from-home initiatives before the pandemic too. The number of people that work from home has risen dramatically in the last decade, thanks to things like broadband, video-calling, and productivity tools like Teams, Slack, and Workspace. Those who embraced working from home prior to the pandemic did so to ensure their employees had a better work/life balance, were more productive, and generally happier in their roles.
Countless studies have shown the benefits of both working from home and flexible working hours – both are great for mental health and productivity. Of course, there will ALWAYS be negatives associated with any style of working. But in the grand scheme of things, companies that give their employees more freedom with respect to working hours and where they actually do their work tend to have happier employees and higher levels of productivity across the board.
Plus, with the rise of ultra-fast 5G and gigabit broadband, working from home is only going to become easier and more commonplace. We already have the tools to be completely functional while working at home. And if it means fewer cars on the road, fewer people on public transport, and happier employees in general, I think working from home is something most people can and will get behind, especially once companies start blocking their employees from doing it as is happening right now in the UK and USA.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the publisher and owner of KnowYourMobile.