Home office: a blessing or a curse?

In 2018 only 15 percent of employees in the EU worked from home. That figure has risen dramatically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Commentators outline the challenges of working within one's own four walls.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Redistribution benefits employers

As well as blurring the divide between work and private life, working from home also brings financial disadvantages, Der Standard warns:

“Employers are saving a lot of money: rental costs, cleaning costs, costs for all sorts of things that keep the workforce happy, from coffee to baskets of fruit. ... What many are touting as a pure blessing for employees requires closer examination. ... Because what we're seeing is the silent redistribution of infrastructure costs to the workers, meaning a net reduction in wages. ... In fact, home office devalues work. For the workers. ... They pay the rent for their home, which now serves as their office. They pay for the infrastructure costs, electricity, and a faster Internet connection. And they also pay for fringe benefits (coffee, for starters), which are actually part of their remuneration.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Ergonomics and team spirit: what's missing at home

Kaleva also focuses on the challenges of working from home:

“The rapid switch to teleworking and meetings using web tools went surprisingly smoothly. In all likelihood, telework will continue in whole or in part even after the corona crisis. … But this success should not conceal the fact that this kind of work often takes place under difficult circumstances. Not all teleworkers have the possibility to work in a quiet, ergonomically optimal environment. … And as far as well-being and productivity are concerned, the social importance of the working group and the creativity that such interaction creates must also be emphasised.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Escape from private life no longer possible

More than a month of domestic isolation has no doubt come as a revelation for many workaholics, Neatkarīgā observes:

“Many people are now learning what their family is really like. ... The usual daily routine in which many spent more time with their work colleagues than with their children and family is over. Now they find that the private lives they had so successfully escaped from actually exist. And these private lives are not so simple. Throughout the different eras and under all rulers, work has served as a pretext for escaping private life. Many artists, engineers, bankers, entrepreneurs, drivers and unskilled workers hid at work so as not have to confront the reality of their private life.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Virus must not make offices redundant

After five weeks of working at home journalist Gunnar Jonsson describes in Dagens Nyheter how much he misses human contact on the job:

“An editorialist can't always distinguish between work and free time, news pops up all day long. Nevertheless I think that one's work belongs at the workplace and one's home should be one's home. It simply doesn't work without the group, in my case the other editors. ... Electronic forums have their limits. I've seen enough videoconferencing to know that meetings in real life are better. It's so much more convenient just to walk over to your colleague or manager. Yes, we have to adapt. Digitalisation offers many possibilities. But I sincerely hope the coronavirus doesn't kill off my office. Because I miss it.”

Protagon.gr (GR) /

Our lives could be dominated by work

The meaning of work will change as a result of the corona crisis, Protagon believes:

“What is certain is that the pandemic has greatly accelerated the speed with which people are adopting a way of life in which everything - or almost everything - is done from home. The advent of 5G will reinforce this trend and become entrenched in many professions. The concept of 'work' will change, as will the concept of free time on a planet with a cleaner atmosphere. And the key question will be: if you work from home, will you eventually allow your entire life to be dominated by work?”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Hours of commuting might become history

Working and learning from home has many advantages, the Irish Examiner points out:

“The idea means more people can live in low-cost regions which may help turn the tide in the housing crisis. ... That modern curse, the daily, multiple-hour commute, might become, for some workers at least, history. That would reduce our dependence on oil which, as our world warms to an unsustainable degree, cannot but be welcomed. Home learning might help slow the colonisation of university towns and cities by ever-expanding student accommodation. It would also widen third-level opportunity even if third-level education is about far more than academic achievement.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Academic titles and full calendars no longer count

The time spent working from home will be a reality check for some employees, Tygodnik Powszeczny writes:

“So many years of collecting: academic titles, sales results, credit cards, publications; white shirts and wool blazers in our wardrobes, schedules flatteringly full of meetings and seminars. ... Many of us are deeply connected with the roles we play. Many of us still fulfill these roles in theory - no one is taking away our academic titles or successful careers - but when you spend your time in an old armchair, wearing dog-chewed slippers and listening to your wife nagging at you to go and buy milk, these roles become a little eroded. And this shows how short-lived our achievements are.”