Day 10: Why are We Pushing People Back to the Office?

In the past few months, when really compelling news stories have been absent from the headlines, I’ve heard an interesting confluence of ideas from both right and left wing media. To be more specific, I should state that it’s really just an “idea” and not “ideas”. We’re not quite there yet; the agreement is only with one very specific stance.

This stance is: “Every worker should go back to the office”.

And I truly, madly, deeply (name that band) don’t understand why this is such an emphasis.

To be clear, I obviously understand that for some jobs to exist, they have to be performed in person. I’m not saying that I don’t understand why emergency surgeons and other workers need to be available in the flesh.

What I can’t grasp is why we are pushing so hard for people to go back to the office who are happier and more productive while working from home.

I heard an interview (I wish I could find the link. It was Morning Edition on NPR, I believe. That’s all I’ve got. But it also could have been a podcast…or another radio show. I know it wasn’t TV…I think.) where the interviewer was talking to a person who was adamantly opposed to businesses extending work from home options. It went something like this:

Interviewer: “Why do people need to go back to the office?”

Interviewee: “Steve (maybe?), we are finding that babysitters and childcare centers are struggling to stay open because parents are at home with their kids more. More children are being diagnosed with mental health issues. Restaurants that were usually frequented by workers during their lunch break are having to lay off workers and only open during dinner hours.”

The interview went on from there to talk about other things and pretty much just let those points stand on their own. Granted, I’m probably not doing these people (whose names I can’t remember) justice by paraphrasing their words, but I have so many questions:

  1. Why is it a bad thing that parents are spending more time with their kids?
  2. If more kids are being diagnosed with mental health issues, couldn’t a possible reason be that their parents are actually able to spend more time with them and recognize the signs that might otherwise have been missed if they were at the office for most of the day?
  3. Restaurants seem to be notoriously difficult businesses to keep afloat, don’t changes in consumer habits drive how these restaurants have to operate and respond?

Now again, let me clarify:

  • I feel horrible that any workers and businesses such as daycares, babysitting services, and hospitality workers would fall on hard times and have to make adjustments. I know that must feel scary and it must be really hard to make the decisions they’ve had to make.
  • Mental health issues increasing in children could be caused by a variety of factors and I could be completely wrong that parents being home is only improving diagnostic capabilities.

That being said, am I crazy in making the statement below?

“Workers who are completing their assignments on-time, with the same level or even improved quality of work, who are happier, who are leaving a smaller environmental impact on the world by reducing their commute times, and who simply WANT to continue working from home, should be able to do so.”

Is there anything in that statement that you disagree with?

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