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Editorial

Work from Home or the Office?

So what happens now?

Six months after being forced to stay in our homes by the Coronavirus pandemic, we should have come to a conclusion about whether it is better, the same, or worse, to work from home. Correct?

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal asked 18 of the biggest business leaders and company presidents in the country what they thought about remote working.

The vast majority, 16 of them, were against working from home. One was in favor and another was somewhat in favor.

Among those asked was Greek-American Jamie Dimon, president of JPMorgan Chase & Co., who replied: “I don’t know the future better than anyone else. I think going back to work is a good thing. I think there are negatives to working from home … We’ve seen productivity drop in certain jobs and alienation go up in certain things. So we want to get back to work in a safe way.”

On the other hand, Dana Canedy, publisher of the flagship imprint of the Simon & Schuster book-publishing unit of ViacomCBS Inc., said: “We’re all grown-ups and we have adapted to these new work realities. That’s going to produce permanent changes in how we all work. I’m getting my work done, and so are my colleagues. I don’t have an issue with it.”

So, a consensus has formed: preference to return to offices, to workplaces, at the first opportunity, as soon as people feel safe. However, the fact that there are opposing views, even if only held by a small number of people, who believe that going back to the offices is not necessary, can have significant consequences, from office rental prices to the health of businesses such as the taxi industry, restaurants, etc. At least for a while.

I agree with the majority. Many departments of the newspaper can work from home, as was done for months in New York and is now happening for the second time with the office in Athens.

However, I consider personal human interaction to be necessary and energizing  – as is interaction between our readers and staff. Video conferencing is not the same thing as having someone by your side.

I think Jim Fish, the president of Waste Management, put it very well: “Most of us are not hermits … We need that social interaction, not only from a business standpoint but truly from a kind of personal-development standpoint.”

In the end, some good things will remain of our ‘monastic’ experience. Useful things, like new technology, but also a greater appreciation of the fact that most of us need to get up in the morning and have somewhere to go, to have a change of scenery, to meet people and to have experiences.

But at the end of the day, when the Coronavirus is history, we will find a new balance that will satisfy both our tendency to separate and our need for human interaction.

 

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