Could working from home become the new norm?

Working from home

We live in an age where the lines between virtual and reality are growing ever blurrier. The games we play have gotten more realistic, the work we do has gotten even more virtual.

There was a time where the internet, our global community hub, never existed, yet for so many that time has never been known, or forgotten entirely. For our fathers and forefathers, working on your feet was not just an example of hard work, but also a symbol of pride.

For many of us, the turn of the century was a paradigm shift – a twilight between the old and the new, and we may not have even realized it. The effect the internet has had on our daily lives would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, nevermind a decade or two. It seems as if so many regular occurrences can be emulated, and sometimes perfected, online.

If you want to shop for clothes, or a specific item, you can buy it with just a few clicks. If you want groceries, or cooked meals, you can have either or both delivered to you with a tap on your phone.

If you want to entertain yourself via music, movies, games, or art, all of these things are at our fingertips. So much has become readily accessible as humans have spent the last 30 years documenting, compiling, and weaving our culture and our knowledge into a system that is available to all with a screen.

As time has marched on, we have moved beyond documentation, and entered into an era of empowerment and activity. The internet has become more than a time travelling machine or encyclopedia, as we have integrated it into our daily routine and we have found ways to do commerce and trade with it. With all of this mind, the next logical question we ask ourselves is, could working from home become the new norm?

For many people, it already is. In the times of yesteryear, in order to do work we would have to physically go to a location, our place of business, and put in hours of work to produce something of value. This meant commuting, sitting in an office and then travelling back.

All of these mundane everyday activities not just took time, but also had detrimental environmental consequences due to carbon emissions from travel, etc. This is no longer the case. For many, the hours worked and production of value can be done remotely.

While it is true that professions like lawyers, professors, engineers etc have had to have places of work, so much of their jobs, and many others, relies on the transfer of information first and foremost. In the past, the lawyer, professor or engineer would have to go to his office.

In some cases, work would get done there, while the majority of it may be done overnight at home and then brought in to share with their colleagues. Perhaps it was even necessary to convene the group of professionals to brainstorm ideas or get feedback on the latest case, paper or project.

If you see where this is going, the internet has the ability to cut down a lot of the time and cost associated with travel. The transfer of information over the internet is instantaneous.

So many of our professions hinge merely on information transferring, or communication, that can be so easily trivialized by a phone, computer screen, or web program. Today, the lawyer, professor, or engineer can email their work to colleagues, or create a communal web document that can be edited by multiple individuals all at the same time (try doing that with a physical piece of paper).

Communication is equally simplified, with just a conference call over a telephone app or computer program, all the people you need to convene to complete a project are right there in front of you without having to put socks on.

The two hours you needed to drive to get to the office and back? The hours you had to spend or divide between office and home to do your work? Both of those things are irrelevant now more than ever due to the unprecedented climate we live in, and it is a phenomenon that will only become more prevalent with time.

Our programs will get more efficient, more realistic and soon working from home will be the new norm because not only is it the most efficient and most practical, it is also the most comfortable and affordable – both for the employee and employer.

That is all well and good, as we humans welcome progress. But before we leave off with that nice idea that we can all work at our home office and get everything done with a few taps, remember that this paradigm shift has only increased the demand and importance of the jobs that cannot be easily cut down by the internet.

These are jobs that do not focus on the transfer of information, but physical labour. Take for example electrical wiring that keeps us going, and keeps us connected to the internet, or the physical server maintenance required to even keep the internet up and running. These things are irreplaceable and are not substituted by any current technology.

What does this mean? It highlights the fact that as advanced as we are, there are some hurdles we have yet to overcome, and while many of us have the privilege to work from home, there is always someone who conversely cannot do their job remotely, as it hinges on a physical presence. Someone has to be doing the walking and standing all day long.

Perhaps down the line, we may push ourselves to implement AI or drones in the physical workplace. And to be fair, that is what we do in certain sectors currently, but to the degree a robot could repair an electrical grid via remote control by a team of engineers? Well, that is still science fiction.