There’s one massive drawback from all this working from home: the death of a great gag.
Don’t deny you’ve cracked it yourself. “Can we have a meeting tomorrow to discuss it?” “I can’t, I’m working from home.” “Oh yeah, wink, working from home is it?”
“Wanking from home more like!”
Hahaha. Hahahahahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA that’s what you do is it?
But the thought that we’re all sitting around pounding at ourselves while the kids charge about in the background is one that leads to the dark web and a Thai jail, so these days there’s a chance people are actually working from home when they say they are, and maybe even enjoying it.
So no wonder there’s an army of arseholes marching to put a stop to it.
Here they come, led by the ‘Prime Minister’, itching to jam us back onto road and rail in the same daily 30-minute window so our anger can fuel his Brexited-all-to-fuck economy. If we don’t work in offices Pret will die. In a stunning development Goldman Sachs, who own a vast acreage of city centre office space across the world, want offices back up and running.
Among this crowd is a business owner named Gene Marks, who needs us all to get back into offices from which, like every other boss, I imagine he’ll be curiously absent himself. From his Guardian opinion piece I gather he has ‘clients’ and that “the evidence is in: working from home is a failed experiment”.
There’s been a study, of course. Almost two-thirds of self-selected respondents said they were craving (Gene: “yes, craving”) more in-person time with their teams. 37% of the global workforce complained that their companies were asking too much of them when out of the office. 54% of these people feel overworked. 39% are simply exhausted. (Apparently it also hits innovation, hot-desking being famously conducive to an expansive imagination.)
So to be clear, people want to go back to the office so they can see other people and do less work. You see them occasionally when the news tracks down the tiny minority not thrilled at all this freedom and flexibility. They whimper like school children whipped with rulers by parents not very good at home schooling. I miss the office because I miss seeing people. Naturally, not a bean about the actual work.
Work is not for enjoying. Work is for turning up, and sitting in the same room as nitwits for whom ‘business attire’ is the most exciting choice of their day. It’s for talking, on or off topic but definitely talking and absolutely not having the radio on in the background because this isn’t a fucking garage all right? It’s for endless meetings, for bitching that someone’s nicked your milk, for staring at the clock praying for noon so you can choose from the same lunch options as yesterday and tomorrow. It’s for saying to someone “Thank God it’s Friday”, oblivious to those words proving how much you hate every other day.
If you’re there, you’re doing the job, and if you’re somewhere else you’re not, even if you are. This rule exists for good reason: not everyone has skills. Believe it or not some people are fucking useless at what they do. Attendance is everything for them and they make a fine art out of walking around looking busy, arranging meetings and tutting at Powerpoint. If they’re not visible they might not actually exist.
The epitome of this paradigm is the Project Manager. What do you do? I manage projects. Yes but what do you do? I make sure the project gets done. By other people? That’s right. So you’re here in case other people don’t do their jobs? I am yes. And if they do their jobs, what are you for? …I manage projects.
In some offices a Project Manager morphs into their necromancer form, the Business Analyst. These are the adult version of the boy who used to clutch his head saying “Oh what was I going to say, it’s right there, oh what was it?” as thought the wisdom of the world was on the tip of his tongue even though his parents were called into school often. They all have names like Richard or Andrea. They’re so inane we might as well rename the job Business Alanyst.
This is the type of worthless buffoon the rest of us have to contend with in offices. Is it a surprise we’ve taken to working at home like pre-teens to dick pics? Some of us are even competent. I have no qualms in blowing my own trumpet and saying I work fast and I work well. People I know find me jobs because they know the jobs get done. Nobody’s moaned about my work for years, and I work with civil servants for Christ’s sake.
But put me in an office and watch that productivity plummet. At home, I experience a twinge of guilt if the work dries up and I’m getting paid for nothing. (This is my guilty face. Morning.) In an office, oh I’ll find a way to make you regret making me come here. I’ll surreptitiously watch some farce of a TV show just for the sake of it, like SWAT or Chicago PD. I’ll listen to metal on tinny headphones and ignore every email. I’ll go for a cloudy kip in a toilet cubicle or a 2.45pm ‘meeting’ at the Hoop & Grapes. I’ll use your milk. And when you need that presentation it’ll come in ‘Slidebean’ just so I can watch you break the HDMI.
And the people. I cannot express how much I do not need or want to be asked how my weekend was. If anything interesting happened I will tell you in the pub (pub, noun: an establishment for the sale of beer and other drinks, and sometimes also food, to be consumed on the premises, “let’s go to the pub”). If I have to hear another funny story about your children I will find them and put a stop to it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy band of good friends I’ve met at various jobs. Am I looking forward to seeing them for a pint? Every one of them. Do I want to see them every day and talk about football? Not a one of them.
Listen, offices are where they put us to keep an eye on us, you must know that by now. You might miss offices now, but that’s because everything else is shut. What you’re risking with your mindless WeWork resumption is a world where we can go to the cinema and see our parents whenever we want, but consign the terror of the open plan to the past as well.
When things reopen and the world’s available to us again, maybe get a damn life outside your job. I have every intention of working at home in the daytime then going out in the evening, if I want to, until I’m dead. If you go to the office, because there will always be an office, once a week you can catch up with your friends and all the rest of it, without four other days of wishing they’d shut the fuck up about their new barbecue.
Schools will be properly open again so your kids can go back to being someone else’s problem like you were promised. You’ll save ten hours a week not travelling to and from a job you do on a computer because guess what, you have a computer two rooms along from your bed. Don’t shower, turn your camera off and blame your bandwidth. Go for a 15-minute crap any time you like without cursing whoever designed the floor with the khazi right in the eye-line of that fit receptionist. And never again have to sit next to a man like me who still says things like that.
Go in if you want but leave me out of it. I’m really not harming you if I work just as many hours but get up at half eight not half six every day. Judge me on results like a grown up, not whether I say ‘Sir’ when my name’s read out.
I’ll even tolerate your side-splitting wanking from home gags, if you like. You go ahead and tie yourself to the photocopier. It’s where you do your best work after all.