by: Matthew Burke
I can’t exactly claim to be an environmental activist. I don’t recycle my plastic, I won’t consider buying a car unless it has at least eight cylinders, and I feel excitement rather than guilt whenever I catch a long-haul flight. However, I’ve always thought that I had an easy solution to our problems, and one that most people had ignored until recently.
Imagine, for a moment, that aliens land in the room of an average office worker, just as he is getting ready to leave for work. I’ve always imagined that the conversation would go a little bit like this:
Aliens: So, what are you doing this morning?
Office worker: I’m going to get into a metal box which emits harmful gases, spend about an hour sitting inside it, until I arrive at a special place with a lot of other people who have just done the same thing.
Aliens: OK, and what do you have in this special place?
Office worker: A desk, a computer, and an internet connection.
Aliens: OK, so you go to that place because you don’t have those things at home?
Office worker: No, I have all of those things at home as well.
Aliens: So why on earth are you wasting hours of your time each day, and destroying the planet, for something that you could do more easily, and in a far more comfortable manner at home?
A bit of a ridiculous example perhaps, but I’m sure you get the idea. If you look at the concept of commuting from a standpoint outside of our office-based culture, it sounds utterly absurd. Now, as a teacher, I will be the first to admit that not all jobs can be performed from home, but let’s not ignore the fact that a huge number of jobs are very well suited to the home-office environment. The problem appears to be that some bosses are unwilling to change their working methods, and are concerned that home-office workers may be less efficient. My response to that is simple: you wouldn’t accept inefficiency from workers in an office, so why would you accept it in a home office? Ultimately, if a worker is not performing adequately, you dismiss them and hire someone more suitable for the role, and anyone who doesn’t have the self-discipline to work on a task without in-person supervision is unlikely to be an asset to your company anyway.
That’s not to say that there aren’t disadvantages to working from home, but just imagine the benefits if everyone who was able to work home-office actually did? Less air pollution, less traffic, less use of natural resources, more land available for housing, and more free time to spend with family. The possibilities are endless, and I certainly hope that a transition to working from home can be one of the few positive things to come out of this pandemic.